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David K

bump.....for anyone with sweet pea queries.

My sweet peas, growing up a hazel tunnel with french beans, have been flourishing but now have green aphid infestation and a lot of powdery mildew. Currently I'm wiping the aphids off by hand daily (horrid job) which is limiting them a bit (very few ladybirds in our garden this year). I've seen online a recipe for treating both organically with a mix of 1 Tablespoon of baking soda & 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap to a gallon of water - any experience of how effective this is?  

And will the aphids & powdery mildew also infect my french beans? (At the moment they are looking fine)

Thank you!

David K

Oh dear, so many problems.

First of all let me say that this year has been a very trying time for all gardeners, especially in terms of wet weather, pests & diseases and sadly some of your problems could have been avoided or at least minimised by good cultivation.

I've heard of growing sweet peas with climbing beans, but it isn't something I've ever tried. In a good year you may well get away with it, but I can see that it would be problematic this year.

All legumes (including sweet peas) are prone to mildew, even more so this year where the mildew spores flourish in warm damp conditions. Good ventilation between plants is essential, so (as you will understand) growing between beans will just exasperate the problem.

As I said earlier, I don't grow beans & sweet peas together, therefore I can't be sure if the present mildew will infect your beans.....hopefully not!

I can't claim to be a totally organic gardener,  I do always refrain from spraying food crops, although I have no qualms about spraying my sweet peas with 'Pravado' to zap application ensures aphid free flowers for 6 weeks.

Sorry, I have no info on a baking soda/liquid soap mix.

The potty gardener

Thank you David K so much. You have explained to me what I have done wrong with my sweet peas this year. They have a lot of mildew and I fear it is because I put them much too close together thinking that more plants would provide a better display. I planted them around a cane wigwam but only 3 or 4 cm apart. Next year I shall space them further apart sothereis better ventilation.

David K

Bev - I wouldn't look at it as something you have done wrong, more a case of the result of absolutely atrocious growing conditions....although I would recommend planting more like 15 cm (6 inches) apart minimum.



Thank you David K. Very helpful - and next time I will ensure better ventialtion between plants. Would you advise cutting down the mildewed sweet peas? They're still growing and flowering (over 8 foot tall!) so I'm tempted to just leave them while they're still growing. I'm in south Bristol where there's plenty of mildew spore in the air anyway, it seems... 

David K
Pat12 wrote (see)

"Would you advise cutting down the mildewed sweet peas?"

Well I can't really decide that for you, I would imagine it would be difficult if they are entwined with your climbing beans. Perhaps it would be best to let them die-off naturally in order to conserve the beans.

Jean Genie

David, this is the first year I've grown sweet peas. They were sown in the spring and flowered quite late.  I left some of the flowers on and now I have little pea-pods . Can I save these to plant in Autumn and if I can will they be true to type - Spencer Mix ?

They also suffered from powdery mildew earlier on - would that have any effect on the pea-pods ?

Thanks Jean.

David K

Jean - For myself I prefer to grow from fresh seed every year. Having said that, I know that a lot of people get pleasure from saving their own good luck to them!

You can save your SP seed, but F1 varieties won't come true, but you could end up with some weird & wonderful combinations.

Providing you have made sure that your seed is thoroughly ripe, it will be fine to sow in the coming autumn and the mildew will not affect the seed.

Harvest the seedpods when they are dry & brittle and select them from the healthiest plants. Keep the seed dry in paper bags (not plastic) until they are sown.


Well along with many other posters my sweet peas have been mediocre at best this year. David, when do you reckon we can start over with next year's?
Jean Genie

David - thanks for that . I'm going to try and have a go I think - I like surprises ! Thats if the seed pods EVER dry out !

David K

Hi, figrat - Traditionally mid-October is the time for sowing the seed, but I think given the unpredictability of the seasons, I would be inclined (depending where you live) wait until early November.

Now is the time to be looking at seed catalogues and choosing next years varieties.

David K

Anyone lke these?

Mmmmm. Do you think we can persuade the powers that be to incorporate a scratch'n'sniff option?
Well it's doubtful that will happen!
I'm on the southern edge of Dartmoor with a walled garden that has quite a protected microclimate in terms of frost, but have suffered along with everyone else with this season's gloom, chill and rain.
Scent with sweet peas is the most important for me...would you have any recommendations?


David K

Well it has to be remembered that frost is an advantage during the winter, as it makes for strong stocky plants.

Probably the sweet pea 'Cupani' has the strongest scent of any of them and also is the daddy of em all.

David K

Anyone see Monty Don's update on his 'sweet pea experiment' in last night's GW program?

I'm not sure why he thought the experiment was necessary in the first place. However, (having dismissed autumn sowing as a waste of time) he did have the honesty to show the proof that sweet peas grown from autumn sowings are superior.

I know his experiment is yet to be concluded, but it's obvious that he's going to say at some stage, that the autumn sowings finished flowering before the spring sown ones....but he should have known that anyway.

Interesting to note the poor results from sowing seed direct in the spring, particularly in a difficult season like this.....very much a less desirable option.

There is a fourth option he didn't mention of course, that is to sow the seed insitu, in the autumn.

Btw, I thought the sweet peas grown in Rachel's 'forces garden' were a better sample than those in Monty's garden.

Miss Becks

David, if I start my seeds off now, should I do it indoors, or straight outside where I want them to grow?

David K

TBH neither, Becks. Don't do anything until mid-Oct at the earliest.....sowing indoors or out at this time will just waste the seed.

As I said somewhere up-thread, I'll be doing step by step a little later in the year.