Gardening Tips - July
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Plant Of The Month - Sweet Peas by Sheila Johnson
(Technical Assistant, Parks & Countryside Services, Manor Road Nurseries)
 
A summer garden isn’t complete unless it has sweet peas growing in it somewhere. There can be no excuse for not finding a space for these most English of flowers – and they are so easy to cultivate. Sown in autumn in pots a cold frame or in January in a cool greenhouse, sweet peas may look delicate but are as tough as old boots and will stand plenty of cold. In fact, they are better growing cool, as warmth will induce them to be leggy and straggly.
 
When the plant reaches the top of the cane, traditional growers will untie the plant all the way down the stem, "lay" it down along the ground and begin to train it up a cane two or three places along the row. This will extend the flowering season, possibly giving long stemmed blooms well into September, provided the weather holds!
 
Prepare the planting area really well by deep digging and incorporate plenty of muck and compost. Sweet Peas are hungry feeders. Alternatively, a big pot filled with loam based compost will do just as well if garden space is short.
 
Traditionally, grown singly up bamboo canes as espaliers, the keen grower will plant out in April, choose the best stem from each plant and tie each leading shoot into the cane, removing all side shoots and tendrils. If this sounds too complicated, grow up a wigwam of canes. In this case, plant, water and let them get on with it! A few kind words of encouragement and admiration are all that is needed!
 
In mid summer you can reap the rewards by picking the flowers and bringing them indoors on a daily basis. The more you cut, the harder the plants will flower. And, oh… the scent! There is nothing quite like burying your nose in a bunch of sweet peas and drinking in the heady aroma. Go on! Start planning for next season and give yourself a real treat.
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