Advice for winter sowing sweet peas

frances_in_nj(z6 NJ)January 6, 2012

Hi - Last year, I had almost NO luck with winter sowing of sweet peas (they never germinated) while the year before they worked great. The only difference was that the first (successful) time, I started them in Feb., the second (unsuccessful) time, I started them in mid Jan. Does anybody have any ideas about this? Are sweet peas not a good choice for winter sowing? Any advice or ideas much appreciated!


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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Large seeds can rot if they're in cold, wet soil for very long. Try sowing them closer to spring, probably around late Feb. or early March in your zone. That should work fine.

Note: it's any large seeds that do this, tiny seeds are OK anytime.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 10:07AM
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Yep, I agree with Karen. They will rot if you plant them too early. Same with beans. I wait to sow my beans and peas until March here in Minnesota. I usually also wait to sow squash seeds until Feb/March.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 9:01PM
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Mine germinated but they died off after I transplanted them. Then I summer sowed them and they still died. I gave most of my seeds away in trade. (I've had it with them!)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 11:07PM
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Frustrated with them as well, but I'm going to try again, but directly sown & make a good rich trench of composted manure 1st.

Knee high type did the best direct sown by my then 8 year old daughter in a rectangle window box. She even dug in the top with chopsticks to check on the sprouts & they grew lovely blooms on short stems. She still remembers them fondly & wants to grow at her home now.

Or I might grow them in a window box again, but I might need to borrow a kid to do it. He, he!

Last year, winter sowed in 16 large 4" pots in square flats in leaf mold mid-January. Sprouted in March, but not much growth. We had an exceptionally cold, wet spring. I didn't even bother transplanting them because they didn't grow much yet. Probably needed more fertility, but by May my gardening time was kept busy with edibles & perennials, I let them survive on their own. Watered some in the summer & they had rooted through the pots. I think we had about a dozen blooms, but I didn't catch any seeds. They dried up by August.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 11:35PM
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littleonefb(zone 5, MA)

I posted this in 2010 about my experience with sweet peas and wintersowing.

Hope this helps all of you this year as well.


Until last year my germination rate on sweet peas, whether they were WS or direct sown is in the zero to 3 seedlings, if I'm lucky.
No matter what I did with the seeds, nick them and soak them, soak them and sow them, just sow them, those where my results.


Last year I purchased 2 kinds of sweet peas, snoopea and elegant lady and got 2 sets of different instructions from TM seeds. On line it said to surface sow the seeds and on the packets it was cover with 1 inch of soil.

Well, the only thing I never tried was surface sow the seeds. So figured, what the heck, one last shot.

Soaked the seeds overnight and Surfaced sowed the seeds, just pressed them into the soil and left them on the top and Low and Behold, out of 25 seeds of each kind, I got 25 seedlings.

Talk about being shocked.

So this year, I sowed more snoopeas, elegant lady and added streamers and high scent and did an experiment.

Snoopeas and elegant lady where soaked in water overnight and surfaced sowed, and all the seeds germinated into wonderful seedlings.

With the high scent and streamers that say to cover with 1 inch or so of soil, I soaked all the seeds overnight and sowed have the seeds according to the packages and the other half where soaked overnight and surface sowed.

25 high scent seeds soaked and surfaced sowed all germinated, the 25 seeds soaked and sowed as directed with soil on top, only 4 seeds germinated as of this morning.

25 streamer seeds, soaked and surfaced sowed all germinated, the 25 seeds soaked and sowed as directed with soil on top of seeds, only 3 germinated.

So from now on, all my sweet pea seeds will be soaked overnight in water, then surfaced sowed. No more soil on top of them.

Oh, the sweet peas seeds, all 4 kinds where sowed on 4/12/10 and germinated between 4/25 and 4/29.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 12:50AM
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PVick(6b NYC)

Glad I read this post. I've never gotten anything but rotted seeds when sowing sweet peas, no matter when I sowed them. I always push them a bit below the soil.

Fran, thanks for the info!!! I think I may still have a few sweet pea seeds around, so I'm going to try the surface sow method this year and see what happens. Old seed, but maybe I'll get lucky!



    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 2:52PM
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I'm new here and don't know if Fran is still around on this forum but I wondered if the sweet peas she had success with on the surface were WS'd. If so when did you start them?

I have several I bought this year and I really want to have success


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 7:50PM
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Gosh sorry! I reread and see that dates for sowing were listed. Sorry! I just went through 60 plus seed packets and my eyes are a but buggy!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 7:52PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I sow my sweet peas in January but not outside. I sow them in an unheated glazed porch in a heated propagator. As soon as they germinate the heater is turned off and they just grow in the unheated porch. No lights. They need a certain amount of heat to germinate and a suitable temp in my climate would not be reached until April. That would leave too short a growing season for really good strong plants. Excess watering will rot the seed.

BTW, Amy refers to beans in relation to peas. I think we are definitely talking about sweet peas, the flowers, ie Lathyrus, not peas, Pisum, the vegetable. They are different genera and Pisum germinates at lower temperatures than Lathyrus. Although Pisum,too, will rot in cold wet soil.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 4:21PM
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I might try presprouting them like I do edible peas to prevent rot in cold wet spring soils here. Maybe that is why sweet peas grew best on our covered porch.

Soak overnight.
Wet a dishcloth or scrap piece of fabric like tshirt & wring out slightly.
Fold fabric in 1/2 on a small tray.
Spread out seeds & cover with fabric.
Set on top of the frig.
Check daily.
Rewet the dishcloth as needed.
Plant out when you see the sprout.

Do not wait long because the shoot can break off easily.
Poke hole in soil, drop in sprouted seed, then gently cover.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 10:20AM
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Littleoneofb, you also have a great post for Morning Glories and surface sowing. You should bring this back to the forefront. It was very helpful!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 9:22PM
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littleonefb(zone 5, MA)

I'm still here on the forum. going to start year 10 WS next month. I don't start anything before the beginning of Feb and haven't for quite a few years now.

Learned back then that "Mother Nature" doesn't seem to like us gardeners anymore, seems to be especially WS. I'm thinking that she thinks we are trying to throw her a curve ball on sowing seeds this way and she doesn't like it. That's why the curve balls are coming from her now.

Those curve balls are the crazy weather we've been having for so many years now.

When I started back in 2003, winter seemed to be relatively normal for a few years, then crazy stuff started to happen, especially in Jan. Things like 60 degrees in January, seeds germinating in January when they shouldn't be doing so till April at the earliest.
Then those seeds got buried in snow and come spring, no seedlings, cause they germinated and started growing "when the temps where right" for about a week or 2, and then things what kind of back to normal.

Or we got such things as those of us New England call, 'the winter from he$$, 2 years ago. The one that just dumped snow on top of snow, on top of snow, with roofs caving in, 12 feet of snow on the sides of my back walk way from shoveling and snow blowing.

In between all of that I found that as long as I wasn't sowing any seeds that needed longer than a 6 week cold stratification, starting the first or second week of February still is plenty of time to WS perennials and the seeds will germinate within a few days to a week of when they would if I started them the end of Dec. or the first week in Jan on.

So in the next week or so, I will start sowing and slowly keep going and by May 1st all my seeds will be done.

PV, don't forget to post as to how your sweet pea seeds germinate this way, and the same with you Jennifer.

I'm still sowing my sweet peas that way with perfect success.

Ladyrose65, I'm not sure about the MG thread and surface sowing. Can you point me to that thread as I don't remember surface sowing MG seeds. I soak them overnight and then sow them and cover them with a thin layer of soil, not the depth of soil that the packets say to, but I honestly don't remember surface sowing MG seeds.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 12:07AM
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Littleoneofb, did you WS the peas or direct sow them. If I direct sowed on the surface I think the squirrels would end up wiping them out. Just curious.

Here is a link that might be useful: DW's Blog

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 8:04AM
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littleonefb(zone 5, MA)

I WS all my seeds, midmented. Never direct sow any seeds. Mine wouldn't stick around long enough to germinate either, birds, squirrels and who knows what else would eat them, and that assumes the rain, snow melts etc didn't wash the seeds away to who knows where.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:09AM
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Last year I direct sowed and followed the directions on the packet. They did very well but I intentionally oversowed them and thinned them out once they sprouted. The squirrels didn't mess with them much but then again they were covered with soil.
The issue I did have was that given the small amount of space I have, there is a need pull early crops to put in late crops. The peas were still blooming and producing when I pulled them to get my tomato plants in the ground.
The miragreen peas were very heat tolerant and I think they might have grown a lot longer. This year I think I am going to designate an area to grow peas all growing season.

Here is a link that might be useful: Miragreen Peas from last year

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 1:17PM
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littleonefb(zone 5, MA)

I WS the seeds, and grow the plants in pots of various sizes, depending on where the pot is going to be placed.

Some have only one plant in them, others have several. Just give them a thin stake to climb up or the railing beside the stairs. works perfectly.

By growing them in pots, you have more room in the beds for other plants.

You can also grow your tomatoes in pots as well. All of my toms are grown in pots, as are my peppers, cukes and snow peas.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 2:10PM
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silverkelt(Z5b/Southern Maine)

HEre in Maine, we do have unseasonable warmups, but Ive never seen them long enough to germinate items, but like many has said, peas (beans as well) really do not do well sitting in a freeze/thaw cycle of a wintersown containers.

I to do not sow now until end of feb or early march, for several reasons.

1. Here there is still plenty of cold weather , long enough to stratifiy what is needed at that time.
2. If we get a BAD winter year.. enough ice/snow will crush your milk jugs, Ive seen it, Ive had years where Ive lost most of containers when I used to sow around Christmas before.
3. Its usually a little warmer , if I wait for a warm weekend around this time frame, I can actually sow outside and use a hose, this greatly reduces the mess I make in the house.

BTW, I always direct sow peas.. Ive really handnt any issue getting germination , I never soak either, just plant them when its still cool out (frosty weather) along with your spinich time frame (though recently I enjoy wintersowing my spinich)


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 2:10PM
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Do you guys sow peas and beans near fence? Do they need something to climb on to? If you surface sow them, don't birds and other creatures eat them? When do you direct sow them? I'm in zone 6 for reference.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 7:09PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

We seem to keep changing subject here and getting ourselves rather mixed up. I think the OP was asking about the flowering annual sweet peas (Lathyrus) but a lot of the replies appear to be talking about the vegetable 'sweet' peas (Pisum). Midmented, for example, is definitely talking about vegetables, whereas corinne1 is talking about flowers.

They are different genera which need different culture and this thread could prove confusing for a newby trying to follow it.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 1:42PM
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littleonefb(zone 5, MA)

Flora, excellent point about the differences between the flowering sweet pea and the vegetable sweet pea.

Just for reference everyone, all my posts refer to the flowering sweet pea and how I sow them.

jaggudada, my sweet pea seeds are WS. I surface sow them in the containers for WS. I never direct sow any seeds at all. If I did, with all the critters that I have to contend with, not to mention all the birds, no seeds would survive in my yard if I surface sowed them.

As for the vegetable sweet peas, they can also be WS, but I have never sown them. I have WS snow peas, and those seeds I WS in individual 12 oz cups, 1 seed to a cup and cover with about 1/2 inch of soil and they germinate well that way.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:57PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I have been winter sowing sweet peas (annual and perennial) for many years. I sow them in mid-April here and always have good germination. I do not soak or nick them. I transplant to a large pot and usually have great blooms. Aphids can be a problem in mid-summer but a good squirt with a garden hose keeps them at bay.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:52AM
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I assume the flowering sweet peas are for ornamental purposes just like any other flower plants? They are not edible unlike vegetable sweet peas.

All along I have been talking about vegetable sweet peas or snow peas.

Can you winter sow them? or is it better to direct sow? Do you need to sow them by fence so they have something to climb on to?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:13AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Well the OP seems to have lost interest, which ever peas we are talking about.

Jaggudada yes, the flowering sweet peas are purely ornamental. They are in fact toxic.

Over here we only use the term 'sweet peas' to refer to Lathyrus. All other peas are just 'peas'. But then we do not (cannot) grow other 'peas' eg black eye, etc. (which are really beans) so we don't need to distinguish between the different vegetables called peas. The first time I came across 'sweet peas' to mean vegetable peas on Garden Web I was temporarily confused.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 1:58PM
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