For years, raising fine sweet peas has been. a soul-trying experience to gardeners. Particularly in parts of the country where hot weather comes on suddenly in early summer, the strains available seemed to blossom just in time to die. Well aware of this, plant breeders set the task of developing a type that would grow successfully anywhere.
In color, Sweet-peas range from white and cream through the shades of salmon and rose-pink to crison, then blue, scarlet, mauve and lavender.
Planting time – Time of sowing seed Varies in different parts of the country. In the southwestern states, southern Texas and southern Florida, September and October are suitable months. Gardeners in the lower southern states, from Texas to the Atlantic Seaboard, may plant in November, December and January. August or September is the proper planting time for producing early spring bloom in California. In the Pacific Northwest, it is practical to sow the seed outdoors in March or April.
In the East and Middle West, sweet pea seed should be sown in spring just as soon as the soil can be worked after danger of severe frost is past. While the seedlings can endure some cold after they come up, they cannot stand freezing. By sowing the seed as early as possible, the plants have a chance to develop a strong root system before hot weather sets in.
If you find it convenient to start sweet peas indoors, sow the seed in ft flat or pot of very light soil or pure sand two or three weeks before outdoor planting time. Seeds are placed an inch apart and three-fourths inch deep. Seedlings can go into the open ground as soon as freezing weather is over. Even the tiny ones can be moved safely if holes are made in the soil with a pointed stick.
Location – For a long flowering season and satisfactory stem lengths, the location of sweet peas is important. If possible, select a spot where the vines will get sunshine during the morning hours and shade in the afternoon. The rows should not he too close to a building or underneath overhanging trees.
If you don’t care for sweet peas in rows, they are attractive set in groups of about three plants at intervals along the sidewalk or garden path.
Soil preparation and fertilizing. It is always best to spade the ground some time before sweet pea seeds are planted. Dig straight down the full length of the fork and leave the soil turned over in the rough state as long as possible. When planting time conies, however, make sure it is fine, firm, level and moist. Outdoors the seed is sown about an inch apart and 1 to 1% inches deep. However, white seeded varieties are better planted very shallow and not kept too wet.
In most soils sweet peas are benefited by proper applications of fertilizer. One good method is to dig a shallow trench three or four inches from the plants and extending along the row. About three times during the sweet pea season, make a fairly heavy application of superphosphate, cover with soil, and always water outside the trench. Fresh cow manure may be used instead of superphosphate.
Watering and mulching. Sweet peas need moisture and should be watered if soil at the base of vines begins to dry. A thorough soaking once or twice a week is better than a daily sprinkle, and if there is danger of soil baking afterwards, the surface should be stirred with a hoe occasionally.