When growing sweet peas from seed, the choice of container is important. Sweet peas, like beans have long roots which means it's important to plant them into a deep container.
You can buy special containers, suitable for peas and beans, known as root trainers which work well. However, they can be expensive and not all garden centres sell them.
A more eco-friendly, non-plastic alternative are toilet roll holders. Sweet peas and broad beans can be germinated (begin to grow) in toilet roll holders in which they will grow well until they are ready for planting out.
The main tip when growing sweet peas and broad beans in toilet roll holders, is to take care when watering and avoid soaking the cardboard otherwise it may go soggy and collapse.
Sowing sweet peas and broad beans now is the ideal time as they are hardy annuals and love to get their roots down when it is cold and wet.
Prepare the cardboard rolls you want to use. Toilet roll holders are the perfect size but if you don’t have enough you can always cut a kitchen roll holder in half or use the cardboard tube from some left-over wrapping paper, from which you can make several. Please be careful when using scissors to cut any tubes of card down to size.
Fill the cardboard rolls with compost (any type you have will do). Push the compost down into the roll but be careful not to firm it too much otherwise the emerging roots won’t be able to form properly.
Once you have filled your chosen number of cardboard rolls, place them in a seed tray or container with some drainage holes. This will help to support the rolls and makes them easier to move to the place you have chosen to grow them on, like a windowsill.
Take your chosen seeds and open the packet. Optionally you can place the seeds into a saucer to make it easier to handle them and then you can remove any small or damaged seeds at this point. You can also count out the exact number you need and put back the rest for sowing another time.
Carefully pick up one seed at a time and place 2 seeds on the top of the compost of each cardboard roll before pushing them down into the compost. If you do it in that order you can see exactly which cardboard rolls you have sown into. Make sure you push them down into the compost to your knuckle or about 4-5cm deep.
Lightly cover with a little extra compost and gently water each roll but don’t saturate the compost.
Tip: You could always wet the compost first before filling the cardboard rolls.
If you have one available, cover with a propagator lid (as seen in first photo) and then place on a bright windowsill, frost-free porch or in a greenhouse if you have one.
If you can warm them from the base of the tray, this will help them to germinate slightly quicker but it is not essential. A windowsill above a radiator would be fine but remember to check on them regularly to make sure they don’t dry out.
Pop in a label with the name of the seeds and the date you sowed them.
They will germinate (begin to grow) in about 10 days. Then you can leave them to grow for about 3 weeks in the winter, or until you get to the '3-leaf stage'.
At this point they will be ready for pinching out, and this can be done by removing the growing tip. This will produce a stocky, strong plant which can be either potted on into a larger pot to grow on or planted out directly in soil once the roots have filled the roll and appear out of the bottom. This is usually done in April. You don’t need to remove the cardboard roll as it will just compost away when you plant it out.
The process for planting broad beans is exactly the same, except we made a hole in the top of the compost with a dibber this time and then placed 1 broad bean seed into each hole. Again, sow all the beans before covering them over with compost, so if you do get distracted you can clearly see where you have sown the beans. Once they have germinated, continue to grow them in a cool, bright location and plant out in March/April.