Successful Seed Starting
If you are new to starting seeds, nothing could be simpler than trying Sweet Peas (Lathyrus Odoratus). BB-pellet sized seed capsules are large, round and easy to handle. Sweet peas respond well to a stratification process. In the fall garden, vines produce pea pods that pop open and disperse their seeds. Gentle Pacific Northwest rains eventually remove the seeds earthy brown winter overcoat. This process preps the seed to sprout when the soil warms to over 50 degrees.
To mimic nature, I soak purchased seeds for 24 hours in ramekins on the kitchen countertop. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom. Seeds that may not sprout will float to the top. To promote a succession of blooms and to harvest into fragrant bouquets throughout spring and summer – plant seeds every two weeks.
|Eastern Mediterranean region
Fabaceae (legumes: pea)
Full sun to light afternoon shade
USDA Zones 5 – 9
|February – April
2 – 3″ inches apart
12 – 28 days
Depends on variety. Vines can reach 6′ – 8′ ft tall
Seeds can be started in flats in a greenhouse or directly sown in the ground. They appreciate a little nip of cold. They can be sown 6-7 weeks before the last frost date. In Portland, I use April 15 (tax day) as a date benchmark. As an experiment, I planted seeds directly in the ground, containers, window box and peat pots in our unheated greenhouse. The seeds planted in the window box and containers sprouted first.
Since the Solexx® covered greenhouse does not have heat or water yet, the seeds were dependent on my watering and efforts to keep them warm. Seeds started in the ground Thursday, March 26 are now 6″ tall as of May 6, 2009. When seedlings have 3-4 sets of leaves, remember to pinch off the top set to encourage side branching which results in a bushy plant.
Henry Eckford, cross-bred and developed the sweet pea. He turned a rather insignificant – albeit sweetly scented flower – into the Victorian era floral sensation. In Victorian times, certain flowers had specific meanings due to flower selection limitations. People used symbols and gestures to communicate their feelings which otherwise could not be spoken in words. In the popular Victorian Language of Flowers, sweet pea meaning ranged from shyness, good-bye, departure, blissful pleasure, to thank you for a lovely time.