Autumn is the time to prepare your garden for planting sweet peas. There is nothing more rewarding than having these fragrant and beautiful annuals flowering in your garden at the end of winter.
There are quite a few tips and tricks around growing sweet peas and we have broken these up into a series of articles. This is the third out of 5 articles that we will write, and we delve a bit deeper in this article about the ins and outs around seed preparation.
For those of you who are not familiar with sweet pea seeds, they are quite large with a perfectly round shape, and a very distinct ‘white eye/sliver’ to the one side of the seed. They are brown in colour with a matte look and feel and have a very hard outer shell. The outer shell is the reason for having to prepare the seed before we can plant as we need to soften this shell.
There are two ways to prepare sweet pea seeds - soaking overnight or nicking the outer seed coat.
As mentioned above, the aim of preparing the sweet pea seeds is to soften the outer coat of the seed to aid germination. Soaking can be done in two ways:
- Soak your seeds in water for at least 24 hours prior to sowing OR
- Put your seeds between two wet kitchen towels for at least 24 hours
Nick the seed coat
Use a sharp knife, scissors or even nail clippers to nick the seed coat. It is important that you avoid the ‘eye’ of the seed - a silvery-white incision in the seed, generally visible to the naked eye.
Now that you have prepared your seeds, it is time for the best part - sowing them. As mentioned in our previous article in the series, preparing the soil is one of the most important steps. Like all legumes, sweet peas have very deep root systems and thrive in well-composted soil. Make sure your soil is well prepared before sowing.
Sow your seeds directly into your garden bed at least 2 - 3 cm deep and about 15 - 20 cm apart. It is important that you keep an eye out for birds, squirrels or mice, as they like to eat the seeds. It is very important to keep the soil moist and cool. A layer of mulch at the end is always a good idea.