June 14, 2012

Averting A Disaster with Sweet Peas


It was touch and go, just a week ago, as my sweet pea crop began to fail, seemingly overnight, just as the first flowers of the year began to open. I couldn't believe it, it seemed that I was following the rules to the tee, carefully starting good seed in February, carefully pinching and selecting the strongest stems, using root-trainers, carefully preparing and testing soil, bamboo poles, and daily tending with proper fertilizer and ties.....then, they started failing a week and a half ago.

Without any sign or notice, the super-healthy plants with large leaves and long, loaded bud stems began to fail. First with curling leaves, and then with the buds yellowing overnight, and dropping off. I searched for the cause, and discovered that sweet peas, especially those grown for exhibitions on the single-stem cordon method, as mine are, are particularly prone to a host of diseases, most notably 60 virus', bud drop and an increased sensitivity to water, nitrogen and ethylene gas from automobile emissions.  I was about to pull and burn my entire crop, when it all seemed to change again, overnight.


I think I have a physiological disorder known as 'bud drop'. Apparently the bane of sweet pea growers, it is not a virus, and has many causes, most commonly dramatic shifts in day and night temperatures in the beginning of the season, or any number of cultural causes such as differences in water, water temperature such as a cold hose spraying ice cold water on hot plants, gas fumes from cars, over fertilization with nitrogen, and many growers admit that bud drop is simple a mystery. There are 5 common virus' which can also plague sweet peas, and even though my foliage seemed crinkled and curled, I believe that I now don't have a virus just yet, since I can't see the tell tale 'windowing' or color breaks in the foliage, although there seems like there might be some fascination at the top growing point on a few plants, I think I have discovered the cause, and the cure, thanks to Mother Nature.


 Last week our night time temperatures dropped to 30 deg. F, and then jumped to 80 deg. F during the day. I feel that this caused the yellowing of the first set of buds, and the resulting bud drop, as just as fast as the symptoms started, they have ended. New buds appear to be emerging and elongating without yellowing. Yay! My fingers are still triple-crossed, as I am hosting a party in two weeks to celebrate the blooming of these sweet peas, but so far, it seems that I might have skirted this first bout with disease or fungus breakouts, so common with cordon-grown sweet peas. The plants that I am growing more naturally, as bushes, un-pruned and in cages, are not affected, it appears, which I am learning from my books, is also common. Any of you sweet pea experts out there, please share your thoughts based on these photos, but I am again hopeful that I might have some sweet peas in two weeks - the long range weather forecast has switched to be more consistent, but we have been blessed with perfect, cool and moist spring weather this June - a gamble that I took three months ago when I decided to try growing the perfect poppies, sweet peas and stock - all lovers of typical English weather - foggy, cool and damp.

YELLOWING BUDS RESULTING IN BUD DROP ON MY SWEET PEAS

ALL SEEMED TO BE GOING WELL, WITH THE CORDON-GROWN SWEET PEAS UNTIL THE BUD-DROP BREAK OUT BEGAN OVERNIGHT

ALL THE BUDS LITERALLY DROP OFF AT THE TOUCH OF A FINGER, THERE ARE MANY CAUSES OF THIS PLAGUE, MOST CAN BE OVER-COME WITH  SHIFT IN TEMPERATURE OR CULTURAL TECHNIQUES

NEW SWEET PEAS ARE STARTING TO BLOOM WITHOUT THE BID DROP, MAKING ME HOPEFUL, ONCE AGAIN, THAT I MIGHT GET A DECENT CROP FROM THIS CHALLENGING-TO-GROW PLANT IN NEW ENGLAND.

UPDATE ON OTHER PROJECTS- EXHIBITION CHRYSANTHEMUMS HAVE BEEN UPGRADED TO LARGE, FIBER POTS AND RECEIVED THEIR SECOND PINCHING

JAPANESE MORNING GLORIES, ASAGAO, HAVE BEEN REPOTTED INTO FELT POTS. I AM GROWING THESE IN THE TRADITIONAL JAPANESE METHOD, SO THEY WILL BE HEAVILY PINCHED TO REMAIN SMALL.

THE STOCK IS BLOOMING NICELY, AT LEAST THE ONES THAT I DID NOT PINCH. NEXT YEAR, NO PINCHING! THAT WAS A MISTAKE THAT I MADE. THESE ARE SO FRAGRANT, THAT JUST A COUPLE OF STEMS SCENT THE ENTIRE GARDEN


4 comments :

  1. hopflower10:52 AM

    Bud drop is common during fluctuating temperatures even in non-cordon grown peas, but especially so with them. You just take the stems off and new stems will emerge with the buds staying on when the weather rights itself again. There is nothing else you can do; but early over feeding can contribute to it, as the flowers are under a bit of stress being grown rather unnaturally with the cordon system. But it happens with those naturally-grown as well. Once your weather is steady you will not have problems with bud drop. It is too early to watch for mosaic and other viruses; some of which only occur in bad seed; others not found in seed at all, but with surrounding conditions of soil, other plants being vehicles, and insect vectors. Some of the diseases found in peas are not always around in all places, either. Anthracnose is one of them. It is typically found in hotter and sunnier areas like the southern U.S. where they have some trouble growing peas anyway.

    By the way, England has some gorgeous summers; you should experience one. It is too easy to depend upon the stereotypical fog and mist and rain; that is autumn and winter weather. Being a northern country, you will not find Riviera or tropical summer weather. But there are some lovely, gentle sun-filled summer days without being too hot.

    Perfect for people and sweet peas!

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  2. Thanks Hop flower!
    I am so happy that these sweet peas might actually survive. I guess this is how we learn, even those of us who think we know all! There is always something new to learn. Thanks for your tips and continued support! Here in New England, we imagine the the UK is always foggy! But I have visited a few times, and I think it was sunny once, and it was in June!

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  3. hopflower10:09 AM

    You are more than welcome.I gave many talks at the nursery for years about how to grow them; not hard- it is a matter of knowing what to expect and what to do at the proper time; understanding their growth patterns,and like anything else, finding where they work in your garden. I have grown them for many more years than I talked on them, as did my grandfather and uncles in England. It is expected that one be to be knowledgeable in the field that one works in. I would hope when I go into a shop that the person waiting on me knows something about what they are selling. No one knows everything.

    Since I have relatives in England, I have been countless times to see them. If you are thinking of London, of course the mist rolls off of the river Thames; and it is foggy a lot. The south can be very soft and sunny without being hot. The best times to visit are between May or June to October when it starts getting very cold.

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  4. Hi Matt
    Bud drop is a very common ailment of sweetpeas over here in the UK. This summer has unusually been particularly wet and cold and has given the sweet peas a lot of challenges.

    I have not had any virus infection for several years now but the most common one that I have come across has been the yellow leaf one. Leaves start to yellow from the base and then the yellowing gradually creeps up towards the top of the plant. Nothing you can do about it except remove the plant.

    I try to keep the aphids off my plants to restrict the danger of them transferring viruses. I blast them off with a sprayer full of rain water.

    I am not giving my sweet peas any extra nutrient at the moment but they will be getting comfrey liquid fertiliser later in June and July.

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