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How to Direct Sow Sweet Peas

Direct sow Sweet Peas in your garden! Yes, you can forget the pots and fancy root trainers. Try sowing your Sweet Peas directly into your garden and find how easy it is to skip the extra steps of pots, hardening off, and then planting. You may be surprised how much better they grow.

What you will learn:

  • When to Plant Sweet Peas in your Garden
  • How to Plant Sweet Peas directly
  • Where Best to Plant Sweet Peas
  • How to Grow Sweet Peas for great Results

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About Sweet Peas

Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are fragrant, annual flowers that have been cherished by gardeners for centuries. You can plant them in a cutting garden, borders, in containers, and just about any spot you can imagine.

The range of colors is vast so there is bound to be one that suits your fancy or color scheme. They have become ever more popular the past few years.

Strawberry Fields Sweet Peas
Strawberry Fields Sweet Pea

I am not a flower farmer growing Sweet Peas for sale, I just grow in my personal garden to pick for my own use and I choose heirloom varieties that are tougher and more heat tolerant than many grown for the cut flower industry.

When to Plant Sweet Peas in your Garden

You often see instructions on how to start Sweet Pea seeds in pots 8 weeks or so before your last frost date then planted out in the garden later. But I have found it easier to skip that step and to direct sow them in the garden.

Sweet Peas look delicate but they are much hardier than most give them credit for. Don’t be afraid to plant them out earlier than you think you should.

I won’t tell you when to plant by zone as I am a Zone 8 and you will find most stating that I can plant directly in the Fall for early bloom in Spring but that does not hold true for my garden conditions. Trust me, I have tried.

Do not go by your USDA garden zone for when you can direct sow Sweet Peas in your garden. Instead, rely on your growing conditions or season. Start with what you know is your average last frost date, this can vary by your location even in the same garden zone. Plan to direct sow your Sweet Pea seeds about 4 weeks before your average last frost date.

Each year can be different. If your weather has remained more winter-like and your soil has not warmed up then wait until it does. Last year in April we still had snow on the ground but this year we are having warmer weather and the ground is already warming up.

If you want to play it safe, plant half your Sweet Pea seeds 4 weeks before your last frost date then the other half around your last frost date.

How to Direct Sow Sweet Pea Seeds

Many will suggest soaking or nicking the Sweet Pea seeds before sowing but new findings show that there is no evidence of any real benefit.

If you feel you need to soak them then do it between damp layers of a coffee filter and keep a close watch, they will sprout fast and they can get away from you. (as I share in this video)

sweet pea seeds in damp coffee filter
Sweet Pea seeds in damp coffee filter

Sweet Peas prefer well-drained, fertile soil. They are a greedy grower. Before planting add compost or aged manure to the garden bed. Don’t have compost???… add some alfalfa pellets or meal.

Using a tool or your finger create a small hole or divot in the soil about 1/2 an inch to 1 inch deep. Place a seed in the hole and cover it with soil. Keep planting more seeds the same way about 3 to 4 inches apart. Or create a shallow trench, place seeds 4 inches apart in the trench, and cover.

Gently water the freshly planted bed using a hose or watering can that diffuses the water. A harsh spray can dislodge your seeds. Be sure to provide a secure support for your Sweet Peas to climb. This DIY obelisk works wonderfully

Some additional suggestions is to grow them at the base of a climbing rose or in a pot with bamboo.

Sweet Pea flowers growing up a bamboo plant
Potted Bamboo plant with Sweet Peas climbing it

Cover your freshly planted seeds with protection as the birds will eat the fresh shoots before you know they have sprouted. Also, protect them from slugs by using good bait like Sluggo.

Where Best to Plant Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas are rather like Clematis, they like their heads in the sun and roots deep in cool, moist soil. This is easily accomplished by planting low-growing annuals around them to provide that shade. Mulch well to keep the soil moist and cool. In hotter climates plant in an area that gets good morning sun but some afternoon shade. You will get a longer season from your Sweet Peas.

The closer to a neutral PH the better your Sweet Peas will grow, but unless you are growing for show they will grow decently in most soils. You can get your soil tested via a local extension office if you are concerned or are just starting out in gardening and want to know. Many plants do best in neutral soil so knowing ahead of time what you are dealing with can be helpful.

As shown above I also grow them in pots and containers with other plants. When placed near a door or walkway it lets you enjoy them as you come and go.

How to Care for Sweet Peas after Direct sowing

Keep the soil moist before your seeds sprout and all during the growing season. Sweet peas prefer cooler temps especially at night. That is why early planting is ideal but they will grow through the summer for many if given the right conditions.

Sweet Pea bouquet pick July
July Sweet Peas
Pink sweet peas picked in August
August Sweet Peas
Sweet Pea bouquet picked in September, various colors
September Sweet Peas

Above is the Sweet Pea bouquets I picked last summer and in the video linked I show a brief video clip of some growing in October in my garden. So when I say you can grow them through the summer I am not just feeding you a line.

To encourage bushier growth pinch back out the center tip when your Sweet Peas reach 4 to 8 inches high. Pinch them back to a pair of leaves. This will promote branching and more blooms.

Pick or cut your Sweet Pea flowers frequently to promote more blooms. During Summer I am cutting daily from my many plants for bouquets in my house and to give to others. The stems will get shorter as the season progresses but they are still beautiful.

I feed them an organic liquid feed once every other week. There are recommendations all over the place of how much to feed them. But I plant thickly and among other annuals and perennials so I make sure everybody is getting enough on a regular basis.

See the video of how I direct sow Sweet Peas here

Direct sow sweet peas in your garden video

When the Sweet Pea leaves begin to fade and it looks like the plant is diminishing stop picking the flowers and let them develop into seeds. Be sure to collect the pods before they break open to save seeds for next season.

Printable list for you to follow

How to Direct Sow Sweet Peas in Your Garden

multi colored sweet pea bouquet, how to direct sow sweet peas

Direct sow Sweet Peas in your garden! Yes, you can forget the pots and fancy root trainers. Try sowing your Sweet Peas directly into your garden and find how easy it is to skip the extra steps of pots, hardening off, and then planting. You may be surprised how much better they grow.

Materials

  • Sweet pea Seeds
  • Planting bed or container
  • Water

Tools

  • Digging tool
  • Trellis or something to support growing Sweet Peas

Instructions

  1. Prep soil with well-rotted manure, compost, or alfalfa meal
  2. Dig 1-inch hole in the soil at the base of support of some kind
  3. Plant Sweet pea seed in the hole
  4. Cover with soil
  5. Water with soft spray until well moistened (it helps if the soil is moist to begin with)
  6. Protect from birds and slugs with a cover and bait
  7. Keep moist and watch for sprouts in 7 to 10 days
  8. Pinch out center growth at 6 inches tall, pinch down to a lower set of leaves
  9. Keep flowers picked to promote continued flowering
  10. Feed with diluted water-soluble feed during growing season.
  11. When leaves begin to fade and the plant seems to be diminishing stop picking and let flowers go to seed to save for next season.

Notes

Plant in Spring when the soil begins to warm yet before the local last frost date.

Happy Gardening!

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