Autumn in the garden is punctuated by cool nights and mild days, which make for good gardening.
It is also the time for sowing peas of all kinds including sweet peas. Frilly fragrant, colourful and elegant, sweet peas bring a certain charm to any garden.
Traditionally sweet peas are sown on Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, but anytime in autumn is fine in temperate zones.
Sweet peas are annual flowering plants. The best displays will come from soils that have been well prepared. Incorporate some organic matter and a small amount of a complete fertiliser prior to sowing.
Sweet peas also like things a little on the sweet side, so a light application of garden lime or dolomite is also beneficial approximately 60-100g per square meter is adequate.
Sow seeds directly where plants are to grow, water the soil prior to planting and avoid watering again until after the seeds germinate, this will prevent rotting.
Once seedlings emerge they will rapidly increase in size. Ensure trellis or wires are in place for climbing varieties and keep plants evenly moist as they grow, but avoid wetting the foliage - this can increase the incidence of the fungal disease powdery mildew.
Centuries of plant breeding with many varieties of sweet peas has yielded a divine number of selections for the modern gardener, from dwarf self-supporting types (ideal for containers), to mixed coloured blends.
Once sweet peas begin flowering pick blooms often as once the plant is allowed to set pods it will stop flowering.
Sweet peas make an excellent cut flower, choose flower spikes where only the lowest flower is fully open and use a floral preservative in the vase water or alternatively one part water to one part lemonade to prolong the floral display.
When plants are at the end of their flowering simply dig them into the garden, being a legume, they will add extra nitrogen to the soil.
Edible peas such as sugar snap, snow peas, dwarf and climbing peas can also be panted now. In cold climates planting in early spring is best.
All pea varieties benefit from regular picking every couple of days once pods are set, making them an ideal crop for balcony gardeners and container growing.
The tender young shoots make a great addition to salads, or as a tasty home-grown snack.