Sweet Peas in Pots

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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Pat Sherman
For several years I tried different approaches to growing Sweet Peas in containers. This year I finally got it right. My container plants produced fragrant bouquets from March through the end of July. The secret to success was restraint. I resisted the urge to cram several plants into one container, thereby giving the peas adequate growing room.

I use a large porous container; plastic or glazed ceramic pots cause the roots of the peas to get too hot. I use the 8-gallon size from Western Pulp products. Purchasing a clay pot would be a more attractive choice, but for my purpose clay is too heavy.

I use good potting soil. ProGro Mix 5F works great and is now available in bags. I think any quality potting soil will work just as well.

A trellis of some sort is required to hold up the plants. The bamboo “U” trellis is both effective and inexpensive, even though it is a little short. You can also use pruned branches to make a wigwam. Those feeling extravagant can purchase fabricated trellises at a garden center.

Between September and January, plant six to eight seeds of Winter Flowering Sweet Peas (available as a mix or as individual colors from Territorial Seeds). The fragrance of the Winter Flowering varieties is less noticeable than the Antique varieties but, hey, they bloom in March. Thin to the four best plants and let them grow through the winter. They should be okay outside in all but the coldest weather. Mine are outside, but under plastic and protected from the wind.

When the plants are about eight inches tall start tying them to their supports. The idea that the peas will guide themselves up the supporting structure is very romantic but, sorry, it doesn’t work.

In February, poke four seeds of one of the Antique varieties (available from Fragrant Garden Nursery) into the pot among the Winter Flowering plants, which by now are about 18 inches tall. I use the Antique varieties in pots (instead of the Spencers) because they make fuller plants and have better fragrance.

Watch everything grow and bloom, making sure to cut the flowers. Mine started blooming in mid-March.

Around June first, the Winter Flowering plants will start to yellow and generally look pretty shabby. Cut them out piece by piece.

The antique varieties will remain and will cascade over the side of the pot. Secure these to the supporting structure and add some fertilizer to the pot. Your Antique Peas will start blooming in another week and should continue for at least six more weeks, if you protect them from the scorching afternoon sun.

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