Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The secret to 'sweet' Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas are the sweetheart of the garden. Their delicate fragrance and soft appealing nature takes many gardeners back to the sunny backyards of their childhood.

With such delicate tissue-paper blooms Sweet Peas are a beautiful way to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Sweet Peas are surprisingly simple. Flowering in the late winter months their ability to be ‘cut and come again’ lets them keep flowering again and again right up till the heat waves start.

Sadly these days many people don’t have the space available for growing the climbing varieties. But with a little innovation anyone can have a these beautiful flowers to brighten your day!

Mini Sweet Peas have just come into market! So now anyone with a small courtyard or city balcony can enjoy the sweet aroma of Sweet Peas.

How to Start
Start by picking a spot that gets sun for most of the day. If you’re not using the dwarf variety, support is important. If you don’t have a fence for the plants to cling to you’ll need to construct a small trellis. A simple was to do this is to tie three tomato stakes into a tepee and surround with netting.

Water the garden bed well the day before planting. If you’re planting from seeds don’t water the bed again until they have sprouted and cover them well with soil as they will only germinate in the dark.

Sweet peas like enriched soil with a little lime added if necessary. A pH of between 7 and 8 is perfect for them. Good drainage is important for Sweet Peas to prevent any rot or disease. They benefit greatly from mulch, to keep their roots cool.

When they flower, keep picking flowers often to encourage more bloom. Don’t let children near the seed pods, they may look nice but they are poisonous. During dry spells you should water your Sweet Peas to prevent them dying from dehydration.

Dwarf Sweet Peas are particularly wonderful to grow in pots. There should be few drainage problems and they can be put anywhere you like!

Sweet Peas glorious colour spans the vast spectrum of the rainbow, from white, blue, purples, pinks and through to red. The normal variety will grow to nearly 2m tall.

Mice are the greatest danger to the seed during the period of germination. Later on, watch out for birds, slugs and snails.

Disease - Aphids transmit the mosaic virus. Plants start to grow poorly and have speckled leaves and flowers. Pull out infected plants to prevent the disease from spreading.

Bud drop – every Sweet Pea grower experiences this at some point in his or her growing career! In periods of cold weather the developing flowerbuds may turn yellow and fall off. Some varieties are more prone to this than others.

Leaf Scorch – leaves lose colour from the bottom upwards and dry off or 'scorch' but the plant continues to flower until the top leaves are affected.

Pollen beetles – Vast numbers of these small black insects can accumulate in the blooms, particularly on lighter coloured varieties. There is no chemical control available so the best advice is to place vases of affected flowers in a dark room with a light source at one end. The beetles will be attracted to the light and should abandon the flowers.

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