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Sweet peas

Use trellis to support sweet peas.

Use trellis to support sweet peas. Click image for larger view.

Lathyrus odoratus

Propagation:

  • A member of the Pea Family, seeds are large and produce vigorous seedlings.
  • Soak the seeds in cold water for 24 hours to improve germination before planting directly in the tunnel or in seedling containers.
  • Seeds germinate in 10 to 21 days at 60 F.
  • Seedlings are cold-tolerant, but should be protected by low tunnels when temperatures drop below 25 F.

Growing:

  • A vining crop that grows best under cool conditions.
  • Plants must be provided with a trellis to support them as they grow.
  • From a sowing date of mid- to late March, a transplanted sweet pea crop in a high tunnel should begin flowering by mid- to late June (Zone 5).
  • Plant spacing: 2 to 4 plants per foot on a trellis, with rows 4 to 6 ft. apart.

Varieties:

  • Sweet peas were a favorite cut flower crop in the early 1900s in the US, and many varieties have been developed.
  • Only one year’s trial results in Ithaca so far. ‘Mammoth Choice Mix’ produced highest stem yield of 34 stems/plant.
  • ‘Cuthbertson Mix’ was 10 days later in flowering, and yielded 20 stems/plant.
  • Flower size and yield declines with increasing temperatures, so early varieties have advantages for tunnel production.

Postharvest Handling:

  • Flowers can be harvested either as flower stems without leaves, generally 10 to 14 in. long, or as leafy shoots with flower stems attached.
  • Vase life at room temperature is around 5 days.
  • Primary attraction of the flowers is appearance and the distinctive fragrance.

For more information, see: Armitage, A.M. and J.M. Laushman. 2003. Specialty Cut Flowers, 2nd Edition. Timber Press, 586 pp. Available through ASCFG.

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