Sweet Pea-Late Spencer Choice
Growing sweet peas for exhibition is very popular with hobby gardeners in England and throughout Europe. Many savvy competitors grow Late Spencer Choice Mix for this purpose. These strong-stemmed vigorous plants produce multitudes of fragrant blooms especially suited for cut flowers. Beautiful hues of red, pink, white, rose, purple, and blue. Germination code: (4)
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Sweet peas prefer deeply dug soil with lots of rich compost. Best grown in full sun on a fence or trellis. Sow in early spring, the same time you would plant garden peas. To hasten germination the seed can be rubbed with sandpaper and soaked for one hour in warm (110°F) water to help soften the hard seed coat. Sow the seed 1-2 inches deep, 3-6 inches apart. Germination occurs in 10-15 days. When the seedlings are about 10 inches tall, pinch out the growing point to allow for more branching. Vines average 4-5 feet long. To prolong flowering, mulch heavily to keep the soil cool, fertilize lightly during the blooming season, and remove old blossoms. Gardeners in zones 6 or higher can sow sweet peas in pots in October, overwinter them in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse, and transplant out in early April. Make sure to plant outside before roots emerge from the bottom of the pot. In colder climates, direct sow in the spring. Approximately 12 seeds per gram unless otherwise noted; 28 grams per ounce. Germination code: (4)
CULTURE: As a general rule, flowers can be sown in the garden when the soil has warmed to at least 55°F. Flower seeds sown outdoors germinate best in well-worked, loose-textured soil. Flowers respond to fertilizer and good watering practices. Add 1-2 cups of our complete fertilizer per ten row feet to provide adequate nutrition. Seeds should be buried two times their narrowest dimension and covered with finely raked soil or vermiculite unless otherwise noted. Some varieties can take over a month to germinate so mark your rows, keep them moist, and for larger seeds like sunflowers, use bird netting to deter your feathered friends. To encourage earlier blooms, many varieties can be started indoors or in a greenhouse. Always start with a sterile seedling mix and clean pots. Sow 5-6 weeks prior to your last frost. Most seeds germinate better if kept warm, 70-80°F, and covered with a sheet of plastic or a Propagation Dome to retain moisture. If seeds need darkness, cover with two sheets of newspaper. Remove the plastic or newspaper upon the first signs of germination. The most common mistake is over watering. Keep the soil moist, not soggy, and provide adequate drainage. A slight airflow helps reduce fungus problems such as damping off. We recommend feeding your seedlings a balanced grow formula, diluted to 1/4 strength. This will provide the right amount of nutrition for your young plants. Up-pot if necessary and transplant out after the danger of frost has passed. For more information please refer to the germination codes given for each variety, as well as the additional culture blocks throughout this section. Then enjoy a gorgeous display of blooms all summer long!
(A) Annual: Will tolerate cool weather but not frost.
(B) Biennial: These plant varieties require 2 growing seasons to complete their life cycle.
(P) Perennial: Perennials usually live on indefinitely after they are started; they may not flower the first year.
SOAKING: If you prefer to soak your seeds, follow these simple guidelines: soak in 85°F water for 1-3 hours and plant immediately. Longer soaking times are often detrimental; seeds need air to live.
PESTS AND DISEASES: Flowers are prone to some of the same diseases that we find in the vegetable garden. Proper sanitation, watering, and good weed control will generally alleviate most of the problems. Pyrethrin will control most insects.
HARVEST: For the best fresh-cut flowers, harvest in the morning when the flowers are their freshest and the petals are just opening. For optimum results, cut with a clean knife that has been dipped in a solution of 10% household bleach. A few drops of bleach in the vase along with our Floralife Cut Flower Food (ZFE272) will prolong their beauty for days.
GERMINATION CODE: Given at the end of each description to give you specific information.
(1) Germination occurs between 70-85°F and within 6-15 days. Sow indoors and cover lightly.
(2) Needs a period of pre-chilling. Mix seeds with moistened peat moss and place in plastic bag. Seal and place bag in an area where the temperature is around 60°F for 2-3 days. Then place in the refrigerator for 30-90 days. After pre-chilling, place seed on sterile seedling mix and cover lightly. Germination may take up to 30 days.
(3) Needs darkness to germinate. Remove cover as soon as germination occurs.
(4) Direct sow in the garden as soon as the soil warms to at least 55°F.
(5) Germination may be slow and erratic. A fluctuating temperature of 75°F during the day and 50°F at night may help.
(6) Needs at least 12 hours of light per day to germinate. Press into the medium but do not cover. Keep moist.
Note: For those varieties that indicate a (1) or (6), a very light covering of vermiculite will allow adequate light to the seed and keep it uniformly moist.