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Over the Summer months, the kitchen garden at Forde Abbey is filled with the gentle scent of sweet peas, an abundance of over eighty varieties lining the pathways on their twiggy supports and providing armfuls of cut flowers to display around the house and to make into posies for sale in the shop.

Danny, our gardener, is responsible for the annual task of sowing them from seed and has some tips and advice on how to create beautiful and long-lasting displays.

You’ll need:

  • Rootrainers (long, thin pots) or loo rolls
  • Multi-purpose compost
  • A selection of sweet pea seeds.

Sweet peas like to create a good root system and don’t like to be disturbed once they’re planted. For this reason, Danny uses rootrainers or long thin pots .

Fill the rootrainers with multi-purpose compost and sow seeds individually, pushing them down to about 1cm below the surface. Don’t be tempted to plant too deep as the seed will use up all its energy before it gets to the surface.

If you’re growing a selection of different seeds, like Danny, it’ll help to label them, with the name of the variety and date you’ve sown them.

Seeds should take 3 to 4 weeks to germinate, and you’ll need to keep them in a cool but light spot  to encourage good root growth. Too high a temperature and sweet peas will develop longer and more straggly stems.

Keep the soil moist, but not sodden, as over watering will result in the seeds rotting.

After three or four leaves have formed, pinch out the tips as that will help to ensure bushy growth.

Harden off seedlings before planting them out after the final Spring frosts – roughly 8 inches apart.

At Forde Abbey, we gather together bundles of hazel sticks at the start of each year, weaving them together to make teepee supports for the sweet peas. We tend to sow eight sweet peas per teepee, and twine them in as they begin to scramble up their supports. Do this on a regular basis to ensure strong plant growth.

We also apply a thick mulch of mushroom compost before planting and feed them with potash rich tomato feed in the first couple of weeks to ensure strong and healthy blooms.

Water them regularly and pick to your hearts content.

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Danny will be hosting monthly garden workshops in the potting shed from the end of March focusing on seasonal jobs to do in the garden. As numbers are limited, you’ll need to ensure you book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Visit our events section for more information.