Sweet Pea Trial: Tales from Andrew

It's late December and back in mid-October we sowed the last of our sweet peas. This year we are sowing for 2013 HarlequinOpal,Venetian and Amethyst (all from Sarah Raven), Miss Willmott (from Dobies of Devon), Cupani (also from Dobies) and Seeds of Italy Sweet Peas Pisello Odoroso.

Pinching out sweet peas under cover is important to keep doing before spring.

Miss Willmott from Dobies has been a failure, the seed never germinated and you have to wonder whether this was old seed rather than 2011's. We have never had 100% failure before but pots sowed never grew and that is a great shame. We do have another packet to sow in spring and we will keep you updated on that. The other seed from Dobies, Cupani, is growing strong and they are now on their second pinching out. The act of pinching out is to create short, sturdy little plants to survive winter. You don't want lanky growth that topples over placing too much stress on the root system. Short top growth means healthy root growth below ground at this time of year. The reason for this is simple, the days are short and the sun is little and the plants won't get what they need to keep healthy top growth. Short plants are best to over winter.

The Seeds of Italy sowing is by far the best at the moment but this was sown the earliest (September) and in root trainers. We wanted to do this to see what a difference these could make beside pot grown sweet peas and the root trainers are living up to the name. The root trainers are a little fiddly for my liking and I can imagine when I am elderly I will find them too much of a problem to handle. My hands are not the steadiest and I did find myself swearing at them quite a bit. That aside, Pisello Odoroso from Seeds of Italy, lives up to the reputation that the seed producer has. The packet sizes are generous, the seeds are perfect and the germination rate was 100%. The plants are healthy and respond well to pinching out. They have just received their second pinching out and have coped well with the dropping temperatures in early December. However, the nights have been mild as we move into the New Year.

The seeds from Sarah Raven are also strong contender. Sown late (October) like the Dobies seeds, they have outstripped Dobies with a high germination rate of around 95%. Though the 5% failure could have been down to the grower rather than the seed but even still a 5% failure rate is absolutely great when most sweet pea sowings can grow, die off with the cold or worse still, sulk in the soil and rot like Miss Willmott did from Dobies or as I believe in the case of the 5% from Sarah Raven, become fodder for mice (the traps I set spoke for themselves but we won't go into that here). The four mixes, listed above, from Sarah Raven have just been pinched out for the first time but they have developed strong, stout growth in an unheated greenhouse covered with two layers of fleece. The sowing guidelines from Sarah Raven were also the clearest of the three seed producers. This allowed us to follow these guidelines and sow later than we normally do. We don't have a coldframe at the moment and though I would always recommend overwintering sweet peas in a coldframe we at Pig Row have no choice. We have taken every precaution and the fleece provides a tent that locks in the heat. 

At present, we would recommend Sarah Raven for the sheer variety of mixes and Seeds of Italy for the strong growth and seed packet sizes. We will be bringing further updates in spring, as we start to harden off and then plant out.

Sweet Pea Growing: Tales from Andrew in FebruaryWe are so happy that so many of you are emailing us your story of what you are sowing and your hopes for those seedlings. Please keep sending them in.

Sweet Pea Buddy Posts:
Sweet Pea Trial: Tales from Sian
Sweet Pea Trial: Tales from Cally

We ask that if you wish to blog for us about seed sowing that you let our readers know where you bought them and what varieties they are, unless you have saved your seed and no longer have that information. Thanks.

Opinions expressed here are personal. The seed packets from Sarah Raven and Seeds of Italy were received for free to review. Seeds from Dobies were purchased in 2012.