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Direct Sowing Sweet Peas into the Fall Garden

When I first starting growing flowers, sweet peas were high up on the list of things that I wanted to grow. I couldn’t help it really, there was so much hype surrounding them. I had heard that they had an enchanting fragrance, and of course, the actual blooms looked so feminine and delicate – two things which I certainly am not. Regardless, I had done enough research to know that they wouldn’t be happy trying to grow and bloom in my hot climate during the summer. The solution was to get a jump start on the season as soon as possible. I had marginal success with the winter sowing method, but it wasn’t until I started the sweet peas in the fall and allowed them to overwinter was I finally able to get the results that I wanted for cut flowers.

I begin the process of growing sweet peas at the end of September. Here in my garden, I’ll need to protect the sweet peas in the unheated hoop house to have the best rate of overwintering. I’ve left the peas unprotected in the yard before, but they didn’t get as tall as I would have liked, and I ended up losing about 50% of the plants. Here in Kentucky (zone 6b/7), our winters can be pretty cold (down to about -4F) and unpredictable. By growing these beauties in the hoop house, I’m able to have more control.

When time to plant arrives, the first thing I do is grab a couple of old flower vases or jars and fill them with room temperature tap water. Next, I place the seeds into the water allow them to soak overnight. Since the seeds are rather hard, this soak seems to help them “wake up” and be more ready to begin growing when I actually direct sow them into the garden bed.

It’s certainly not glamorous, but I use this small cultivator to prepare my garden beds. It works well enough because I’m able to dig a garden bed that is nice and deep. When it comes to growing sweet peas, I want to make sure that the soil is loose to a depth of at least one foot. This helps the seedling to grow and create an expansive root system. This is especially important in my heavy clay soil. While it is possible to start the seeds first and then transplant them into the garden, I personally prefer to direct sow them. As I’ve already mentioned, the long roots really don’t seem to like being disturbed. While I’ve seen people use root trainers – those can be pretty expensive. For a cheaper solution, consider starting the sweet pea seeds in a deep two-litre soda bottle instead.

As you can see, I’ve got quite a deep trench dug out. In addition to working the soil deeply, I also created a mound for planting. I’ve never done this before, but I can’t help but think that it will be even more beneficial for the plants. It will definitely be interesting to see how this will play out during the growing season.

This season, I’m being extra organized. I’m definitely known to recklessly throw seeds into the ground without much attention to detail. This time, you’ll notice that I went to the effort to label everything. If the “garden marker” that I used holds up, I may be able to know exactly which varieties are which next year! That will be the first time that that has ever happened. Maybe I am a good gardener after all!

Now that the sweet pea seeds are planted, the only thing left to do is wait. The seedlings should start to poke through the soil in about a week. As they get a little larger, I’ll likely be adding a layer of mulch to keep the weeds down while growing through the winter. Hopefully, the flowers in the spring will be really beautiful. Thank you so much for reading! I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

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An awesome one-woman flower farm, cultivated by the love of all things pretty.

2 Comments

  • Tonia

    Question…were you successful winter sowing these? I just got in my sweet pea seed order and wondering if that is the best route for me…Iā€™m same zone as you 6b/7a. Charts say 6b but climate change shows me 7a every year…šŸ™

    • freshcutky

      If you’re going to protect them through winter, it might not be too late. If winter sowing, make sure to use a deep container like a 2 litre bottle. Also, don’t soak the seed when winter sowing or they’ll rot. Good luck!

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