It’s incredibly satisfying to see autumn sown sweet peas soar into the sky as soon as early June, and I’ve tried to get organised every October for the last few years to start my seeds off in good time. During some of the televised coverage of Chelsea 2008, Derek Heathcote of Eagle Sweet Peas explained the best way to do autumn sowings. I was recording all the coverage at the time and am so glad I kept it for reference, because Derek’s method is fast and it works — no fiddly soaking or chitting of seeds, great germination rates, and very healthy specimens for planting out in spring. I’ve just discovered that his instructions are also on his website. They differ only slightly from what he said on TV, where he used cheap plastic drinking cups (with a drainage hole cut into the bottom) instead of grow tubes. Derek emphasises how important it is to get the new plants out into a cold greenhouse once they’ve germinated. They don’t need mollycoddling! I’ll be back to Derek’s website later — for cut sweet peas, he offers tips on how to get rid of the black pollen beetles that always hitch a ride onto the flowers and end up crawling about your kitchen table.