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As we head full on into the new year, with all that is going on in the world, isn’t it a tonic to know that we can start to sow seeds again very soon. After decades of gardening and so many seeds sown, each one still seem like little miracles to me. Gardening and growing your own food is second to none and every new year I get so excited about what I will grow in the seasons ahead, after taking time off over the winter months.
I am, however, a patient seed sower. Apart from a few that I am happy to start off early, I barely sow a seed before March taking the time instead to plan and prepare the allotment and garden. Later sown seeds soon catch up and can indeed grow much stronger, so there’s no pressure to hurry up and sow seeds - go at your own pace.
There is one that I do sow at the end of January though and that’s the gorgeously fragrant Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus). They can be sown and are perhaps more often sown March to May and October to November but after years of growing them, I find late January and into February to always be successful - plus it’s satisfying to sow a few seeds when it’s cold outside!
The easiest way to sow them is into well drained peat free compost or coir placed into root trainers (they look like modules by longer and thinner to allow for straight, downwards root growth) or the cardboard middle from inside a toilet roll placed in a tray. I firm down the compost, leaving and inch at the top place the seed in and cover with compost. They can go into a cold frame or your Rhino Greenhouse and they do tend to germinate easily. Some gardeners soak the seeds first, or even ‘nick’ the seed coating with a knife but I have experimented over the years with all of these techniques and in all honesty, I haven’t found germination to be any better than simply sowing them and keeping the compost moist. I am sure some will have a different opinion but gardening should be done however is best for you.
As the Sweet peas grow, I will pinch them out once or twice by just nipping off growth above at least two sets of fully grown leaves at no taller than 10cm. They are then hardened off in May and planted out in a sunny spot after frosts have passed. Supports will already be in, usually a wigwam but last year I built a wall with canes and string - it looked beautiful! Then I water and wait until the explosion of colour and fragrance begins! Doesn’t just the thought of it brighten up a grey day? Some of my favourites to grow are ‘Restormel’, ‘Spanish Dancer’ and ‘Turquoise Lagoon’. If you can’t get hold of any seeds, most garden centres and nurseries have plug plants available in early summer.
Not only will the Sweet peas be sown but the Rhino will have a clean out too. I do not want red spider mite! So a good wash is in order.
Happy new gardening year!
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