Germinating Sweet Peas...I need a trick.

runswithscissors(MT 4/5)May 8, 2014

I grow sweet peas every year...and every year I have troubles. I'm wondering if anyone has a "trick"!

Once they sprout, they grow well, give great flowers and I love them.

My problem is getting them to sprout. Yes, I do soak them, for 3 days. (I tried the paper towel method once, and it failed completely.) (I've tried them on gentle heat, I've tried them room temp, I've tried them cool.)

Seems only one seed out of about 12 ever germinates...yes, seed is fresh. I like to start them ahead and transplant out because my short summer (zone 4) gives few flowers if I don't...they transplant well. This year I started in Jan because I know I will only get about 3 peas per tray, so I will have to try again in Feb, Mar and April. Out of about 40 seeds, I now have 8 healthy transplants.

So, I already know what you're going to say....try nicking the seed. Does anyone really do this or is this just the standard go-to advice? These are hard little suckers, very round, and small. Is there actually a method of holding on to them in order to nick them without cutting your finger or sending them flying off across the room?

Or perhaps you know of a special "secret" tip like playing the Beach Boys for them, fanning them with a palm frond or shaking a chicken over them (gently, to minimize squawking)?

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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

I've not had trouble germinating them myself (I don't soak them) but some people say to rub them between sheets of sandpaper. Less dangerous than nicking them. And I start them very early - January - to get strong plants.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 1:39PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

for morning glory.. the hardest of all seeds... i used to use an old fashioned paper emery board ... see link

which is sand paper on a stick.. lol ...

the board goes flat on the table.. nice and large to hold with my non dominant hand ...

and i hold the seed .. and i file away.. until you just break thru the coating ... and when done.. you have no finger print in the tips of those fingers..

then onto a wet napkin in a baggie.. until they burst.. then into a cell pack in a baggie ...

and then into the ground ....

cant imagine it wouldnt work for sweet pea ... or any hard seed ..


ps: i did try nicking once... instead of ending up with no finger prints.. i ended up with blood soaked seeds.. lol ... and i found the emery board.. while searching for a bandage ...

Here is a link that might be useful: like this one

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 5:13PM
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I don't knick them, but I do file them. Then I will even soak the ones that are filed (though, in reality, I have planted them in all different ways, and peas will germinate in all those methods -- but I also do get some that don't). I even have tried the paper towel method.

So I think that if you have done all those and still have low germination rates, then the process is not the problem. Maybe the peas, or supplier of peas, is the cause.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 5:17PM
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runswithscissors(MT 4/5)

Thanks for the responses.

Yes, Ken, I can see how an emery board would work much better. My DH has a big sturdy one for his toenails...I'm going to borrow it (he'll never know.)

I read that sweet peas require darkness, so that may be why the paper towel method does not work for those.

How long does it take them to germinate. Package says 14 days...and that seems about right, but some on-line sources say 30 days. Maybe I have a tendency to give up too soon.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 6:37PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I read that sweet peas require darkness, so that may be why the paper towel method does not work for those.

==>>> then put the baggie in a drawer???

the wet towel is to soften the seed coat ...enough that the embryo ... can push its way out ...

by thinning or breaking the coating .. you simply hasten the procedure ...

this would normally be left to mother nature outdoors .. during winter and early spring ... in the proper zone ...

4 oclock is another hard one.. when stored... but i find them on the ground ... soft as pudding in spring ... i store them because the birds eat them in late fall and winter.. if there is no snow cover ...

so i am a bit confused how 'darkness' fits in what we are trying to accomplish here .. perhaps a bit of .. too much knowledge is slowing you down??

ya know.. they dont all have to go in one baggie ... do two bags.. do one in a dark drawer.. and one somewhere else... most i what i learned.. pre WWW ... was by experimenting .... i bet it wont matter ...


ps: i am missing 4 pair of kitchen scissors ... any chance you know were they are.. since you run around with them ... lol ...

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 9:50AM
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I'm worried now because I never have that much trouble. I just soak overnite in warm water and plant in 3" pots.sometimes it takes awhile but they almost always all come up. Same with morning glories. Warm water overnite and plant in the ground

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 6:43PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Why would it worry you that you've never had trouble with them? ; -) Seems you've found a technique which works. Possibly runswithscissors 3 day long soak was the problem? Maybe they start to germinate and then rot?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 5:36AM
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Yes, I don't think I'd immerse more than 24 hours myself. Use warmer water if you need to push it.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 9:33AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i still havent found any of my scissors... and idea where you left them while running around .??? [your handle cracks me up .. i will get over it.. lol]

any luck yet ... do keep us posted ...


    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 7:54AM
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Pre-sprouting in a ziploc and a dampish paper towel has always worked for me. Check on them after a couple of days when they start to sprout. It even works with year or two old seed.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Hmm I have to admit that my wet-paper towel method is done and left in a dark room most of the time. So I don't know if the "darkness" plays a part for the sweet peas, but I've germinated other kinds of seeds this way in the same place.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 12:13PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I don't have any problem with them germinating. I sometimes have problems afterwards because they get aphids.

I winter sow mine, no soaking, no nicking, no filing. This year w/s'd on May 6, germination by May 15 - 100%. They are now grown enough to be put in the ground.

This notion of seeds needing darkness (or light) to germinate always amuses me. In mother nature's scheme of things, everything germinates in darkness (covered with earth), then grows in daylight alternating with night. I think warmth and moisture are the major factors.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 3:07AM
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