Everyone at the farm is looking forward to gardening season. My outdoor grounds crew has been very productive - removing the burlap surrounding my boxwood shrubs, mulching the tree pits and beds, and now planting our first seeds in the flower garden - sweet peas. The sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus, is a garden classic - producing beautiful blooms with the most amazing scent. Sweet pea seeds can be sown into small pots of compost in autumn and overwintered in a cold frame, or planted directly into the ground come spring.
Last week, Ryan planted several sweet pea varieties along the cutting garden fence - this will give us columns of fragrant color this summer. But first, to prepare them for planting, I soaked the seeds using a new technique I learned from a friend. Soaking rehydrates the seeds and softens the hard seed coat, but instead of soaking them in water, I soaked them in homemade buttermilk - I combined a gallon of whole milk with about a half-cup of white vinegar, and then placed a little in each container of sweet pea seeds. I am so excited to see how they grow.
Here are some photos - enjoy.
These sweet pea seeds need to soak in the buttermilk solution overnight. I put each variety in its own plastic container with enough solution to cover completely. If you don’t have buttermilk, and choose to make your own, you can use whole milk with white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or even lemon juice.
Among the types of sweet peas we planted this year, this one is from Vilmorin, a wonderful French seed producer. This variety is ‘Promise’ – a magnificent perfumed sweet pea, producing large, all-wavy, white and pink flowers with up to four blooms per stem.
These sweet peas are from Suttons Seeds, a long established supplier of seeds, bulbs, and other horticultural products in Paignton, Enland. ‘Prince of Orange’ is an heirloom variety producing masses of long stems of large, frilled flowers with a stunning combination of orange shades within each flower.
‘Ballerina Blue’ sweet peas from Eagle Sweet Peas, also from England, have large pale blue florets on long stems with an excellent perfume.
‘Misty’ is another fragrant variety – this one with shades of mauve and pink.
‘Dot Com’ is a very fine fancy colored sweet pea – mostly white with hints of lavender shading.
This variety from Mr. Fothergill’s is a cool mixture of many different shades of blue ranging from rich deep blues to serene pastel shades.
This ‘Blue Reflections’ mix is a superb blend of fragrant sweet peas in all shades of blue.
This one from Botanical Interests is called ‘Bouquet Blend’ – developed especially for cut flower use with longer, sturdier stems. Large ruffled flowers come in scarlet, rose, salmon, cream, pink, blue, lavender and white on long five-foot vines.
Most sweet peas are annuals, but this is a perennial blend from Botanical Interests. These sweet peas grow on a very long vine. They withstand summer heat extremely well, and thrive in coastal salty air.
Botanical Interests’ ‘High Scent has an intoxicating fragrance. The soft cream-colored flowers have a delicate lavender edge and ruffled petals.
And, their ‘Fairytale Blend’ is a mix of sky blue and pink mildly scented flowers.
The next day, Ryan removes the seeds from the buttermilk solution and using a strainer, thoroughly rinses and drains them.
The seeds are more plump after soaking. Ryan also inspects them and removes any broken seeds or seed fragments.
Then he pours each seed variety back into its appropriate container.
Ryan writes each sweet pea variety on a wooden marker.
Here are the seeds after they’ve been soaked and washed.
All the sweet peas are brought out into the flower cutting garden to be planted.
To do this, Ryan uses a hoe. A hoe is a versatile hand tool used to remove weeds, clear soil, and dig narrow furrows and shallow trenches for planting seeds and bulbs.
I wanted the sweet peas to grow along the garden fence, so Ryan planted them around the cutting garden behind my rosebushes.
Using the hoe, he dug a shallow trench – just a couple inches deep. Sweet peas are happiest in the sun with their roots in cool, moist soil.
My garden is already filled with rich, nutrient-filled soil, so planting is easy – nearly three-quarters of the cutting garden fence will be filled with beautiful, fragrant sweet peas this summer.
Ryan drops the seeds into the furrow about two-to-three inches apart.
Planting is best done about four to six weeks before the last spring frost, when soil temperatures reach about 45-degrees Fahrenheit.
Ryan places a marker to identify what seeds were planted in what location.
Once all the seeds are in the ground, Ryan covers them with an inch-and-a-half of soil. Ryan uses a small hand rake to do this.
And then uses his hand to tamp the seeds gently, so there is good contact between the soil and the seeds.
Ryan does the same for all the sweet pea seeds. We’re all eager to see how they turn out this summer.