My experiment in growing the 'perfect cut flower English sweet peas' is progressing nicely. The weather, which is always the primary factor in success or failure, has been unusually cooperative providing plenty of cool rain, bright sunny days and cool nights, and the long day length has my crop growing fast and furious. Here is an update on where I am with the project.
|WITH HEAVY RAIN LAST NIGHT AND TODAY, EVEN A SINGLE DAY MISSED IN STAKING THE SWEET PEAS, HAS RESULTED IN SOME BROKEN STEMS.|
Sweet peas are not easy to grow, for they require a lot of maintenance and attention, if you want long stems and large flowers. If you remember, in February I started seeds in root trainers, planting out in March under cloches, after pinching out the growing points. Cut flower Sweet peas love cold weather, which is why they are grown so well in England, but rarely seen in America. Here, they require a very early sowing in order to mature before the hot weather does them in. One can sow seeds directly in the cold ground, but sweet peas really reward you well if grown properly. Surprisingly, the same well rooted seedlings that I planted out in other beds and trained onto wire cages, are much smaller than these plants which are being trained with just a single stem onto bamboo poles, called cordons, an old method which has been used for growing exhibition sweet peas for at least 150 years. My garden plants not trained onto cordons will still produce a multitude of flowers, but the quality will be vastly different.
|PLASTIC RIBBON TIES ARE USED TO TIE EACH SINGLE STEM TO A BAMBOO STAKE, SINCE IT WILL NOT CUT THE TENDER SWEET PEA STEM, AND BEING SOMEWHAT ELASTIC, IT HOLDS THE THE STEM SECURELY WITHOUT DAMAGE.|
I imagine that over the next month, there will be plenty of posts featuring these sweet peas, so bear with me. If the weather remains cool and damp, the season might be extraordinary, but even if it turns hot and humid ( as it will) I am confidant that these plants are now well rooted and strong enough to provide cut flowers until the end of July. I've planned a Sweet Pea dinner party to celebrate a friend's new job at the end of June, featuring local grown produce and a sit-down, outdoor farm table dinner. Last Sunday, while staking plants, I was a bit worried that June 25th might be too early for sweet peas, but now that flower buds are showing, and that the plants are growing nearly a foot a week, I am no longer concerned. I should have more than enough sweet peas than any human could handle.
I know that many of you will say that sweet peas don't really care about soil pH, but I find that the more neutral the soil, the larger the plants are, in fact, the plants may grow everywhere ( I have them growing right now in many places around the garden) but the plants in my two beds where the soil has be altered to 7.5, have plants that are three times the size and volume than those untended. They all will flower, but the difference is more than just notable, it's extraordinary.
|GROWTH OCCURS AT LIGHTNING SPEED IN EARLY JUNE, THESE PLANTS HAVE GROWN 14 INCHES LAST LAST SUNDAY, SO DAILY TIES CHECKS ARE NEEDED.|
|THE FIRST FLOWER BUDS ARE EMERGING. WHEN I CHECKED THE PLANTS FOR FLOWER BUDS LAST WEEKEND, I COULD NOT FIND A SINGLE ONE. TODAY, MOST EVERY PLANT HAS BUDS FORMING.|
|ONE OF THE MOST TEDIOUS TASKS IS SNIPPING OFF ALL TENDRILS, WHICH ARE NOT NEEDED ANYWAY, SINCE THESE PLANTS ARE BEING TIED TO POLES. I ACTUALLY LIKE THIS PART OF THE PROJECT, THERE IS SOME PLEASURE IN SNIPPING OFF EACH ONE.|
|THE TENDRILS ON THE CORDON GROWN PLANTS ARE DANGEROUS, BECAUSE THEY ARE LARGE AND GRAB ONTO NEIGHBORING PLANTS, TWISTING AROUND NEW STEMS, FOLIAGE AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, EMERGING FLOWER STEMS. THESE GIAN PLANTS HAVE TENDRIL HEAD NEARLY A FOOT ACROSS.|
|TENDRILS CAN TURN A HEALTHY PLANT WITH NEW FLOWER BUDS INTO A TANGLED MESS IN JUST A SINGLE NIGHT.|
|CUT FLOWER SWEET PEAS ASIDE, I DO GROW SNAP PEAS AND ENGLISH PEAS FOR EATING TOO. |
THESE SUGAR SNAPS ARE NOT ONLY BLOOMING ALREADY, THEY ARE PROVIDING OUR FIRST PEAS FOR DINNER.
|SUGAR SNAP PEAS READY TO PICK, NEIGHBORING THE BEDS WITH THE FANCY SWEET PEAS FOR CUT FLOWERS, THESE ARE VALUED JUST AS MUCH EVEN THOUGH THEIR FLOWERS MAY NOT BE AS PRETTY. BY NEXT WEEK, WE WILL BE SWIMMING IN PEAS OF ALL SORTS.|