Sweet Peas for the Sweet!!!

Now is the time to start Sweet Peas for winter and early spring production. Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are members of the legume family Fabiaceae which hail from Southern Italy, Sicily and the Aegean Islands.

Henry Eckford of Scotland is responsible for the incredible crosses which produced many of the famous heirloom varieties known today. The noted beauty and fragrance is a direct attribute of the careful breeding by Eckford in the late 1800s through 1906. The breeding production of today focus on stem length and lasting abilities of cut flowers.

Sweet Peas require scarification (nicking or abrading the seed coat to enhance seed germination). Warm water soaking of the seeds may also enhance germination.

Use a nail file or nail clippers to nick the seed coat. The nicking or “chipping” will speed up the germination process. By the way, this is a tedious process. Make sure you give your self plenty of time to keep on schedule for your planting area.

Planting in large cell packs or 4″ pots for transplants is a proper way to plant exactly where you desire. Start the process by using a soiless soil mix with generous compost added. Make sure the soil is adequately moist and plant the seed 1″ deep. I usually plant two seed per cell or pot. Once planted, water in the cell packs/pots and place where the soil temperature is  65° to 68° (F). I know that sounds pretty cold but that is what sweet peas prefer.

The correct germination temperature will insure proper germination in 7 to 10 days. When most of the seeds have germinated move the seed flats to a much cooler area (45° to 55° (F)). A mildly heated greenhouse, coldframe or hoop house will do the trick. Sweet pea seedlings can take it down to 32° (F). The added benefit is stronger and cold tolerant seedlings.


Sweet peas may be bothered by aphids when planted outside. The aphids spread disease and stunt the plants and subsequent production. The other area for concern is powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is caused by too much shade and poor air movement. Watch cultural practices (such as full sun and planting further apart to provide air circulation) to prevent the scourge of this pernicious disease.

Be careful with sweet pea seeds! They are toxic for consumption. If you have small children the seeds could be enticing!

I will keep you posted on future development.



Why Does the Pepper Seed Take So Long to Germinate?

I started my peppers at the same as the tomatoes. Some of the peppers did not come up until 2 weeks later than the tomatoes. Why is this happening?

Pepper seedlings               Pepper-Doux-DEspagne-PP138-web


Peppers are related to tomatoes, but have different requirements for germination. Sweet pepper requires a germination temperature of 75° – 80° (F). The seed trays benefit from being covered with plastic domes or plastic wrap to retain humidity until germination. A minimum of 6 hours of sunlight will allow your seedlings to have shorter, stockier stems.

To meet these requirements you will have to supply:

  • Heat source
    • On top of the refrigerator, where the defrosting coils are located.
    • On top of an electric water heater.
    • A wire shelf with an incandescent light fixture placed underneath.
    • A thermostatically controlled electric heat mat placed under the flat.
  • Light source
    • Natural sunlight – 6 hours minimum
    • Artificial light
      • Fluorescent fixture – seed trays 1 inch from the bulbs for 16 hours a day
      • LED fixture – seed trays 1 inch from the bulbs for 14 – 16 hours a day
  • Humidity retention source
    • Clear plastic wrap stretched over seed flat
    • Clear plastic dome placed over flat
  • Soil
    • Soil vs. soilless mix
    • Jiffy planter pellets – peat moss or coconut coir
    • Soil blocks made from compost and other natural amendments (blood meal, bone meal, green sand, rock phosphate, etc.)
  • Water
    • Tap water
    • Well water
    • Filtered water
    • Rain water

Trinidad-Scorpion-Hot-Pepper               Craigs-Grande-Jalapeno


Hot peppers require a germination temperature of 80° – 85° (F). The hotter germination temperature is necessary for tropical pepper types. Some varieties such as Ghost Pepper, Habanero and Trinidad Scorpion (all 3 are Capsicum chinense) require a longer germination time. You need patience to grow these types of hot pepper. You may be able to speed up the germination process by soaking the seed overnight. By re-hydrating the seed, the plants may emerge more quickly!!

The basic requirements for hot pepper are the same as the sweet pepper mentioned above.