First and foremost, let’s be clear, we’re talking ornamental sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus). NOT edible “sweet” peas,as they are sometimes called by veggie loving gardeners. These, in fact, are toxic. So, don’t eat them. Okay? K, thanx.
Sweet peas and I have a complicated relationship. I love them, but any time I think I’ve finally got them figured out, nature throws me a curve ball and the temperamental things just refuse to grow. Last year I planted sweet peas twice. The first batch was direct sown at the end of March and quickly drowned and turned brown in the low spot of my garden. The second planting was made in April, and though it grew and produced flowers, the crop wasn’t all that great because the summer heat came and wiped them out.
This year, I’m rolling the dice and I’m making a planting now. Seriously, I just finished. I honestly have no idea if they’ll survive or what will happen. It’s supposed to be 70F tomorrow, that’s reason enough for me to try now. If you remember, I planted a batch of sweet peas out in the fall just to see what would happen. Surprisingly, they did better than I expected, even though they still all died. The fall sown sweet peas made it through temperatures in the 20s without much issue. In fact, it wasn’t until the thermometer suddenly dropped to about 10F that things bit the dust. With at least 10 days of warm weather in the forecast, I’m really in the mood to gamble. I figure, worst case scenario, I’ll just take grab my pile o’ old bed sheets and cover these little dudes up. Even if this direct sowing is a complete flop, I still have a good amount of seeds tucked away in my winter sowing jugs. Oh, winter sowing! There you are saving the day again!
There are tons of ways to go about planting sweet peas. Some people use root trainers. If you’ve never seen those, they’re kind of like weird looking take-out containers that encourage roots to grow long and strong. Anytime I’ve seen them for sale, they’ve been expensive. I can barely afford to budget the actual sweet pea seeds, so I definitely won’t be shelling out the cash for a bunch of plastic things. Since one of the keys to growing great sweet peas is allowing them to establish deep roots, some folks double dig their beds. That’s all fine and dandy, and the route I would choose, but the winter and spring here are extremely wet. Like, my basement literally flooded a few days ago. We got that much rain. So what’s a girl to do?