Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Overwintered sweet peas V spring sown ones

Ah sweet peas and roses...summer bottled
For a long time I have been reading how Autumn sown overwintered sweet peas in a cold frame are THE WAY to grow sweet peas, bringing you stronger multi-branched plants that bloom earlier and produce huge crops of flowers......The only problem is that by October I'm not inclined to sow anything. I am long retired from sowing as far as I'm concerned. I finish sowing around June and concentrate all my efforts on EATING from there on out. It's the whole point surely of growing all that veg in the first place?! And as much as I love sweet peas I could never summon up the motivation to want to look after them through the winter. So for years it never happened. Until finally last year I read Monty Don giving advise on sweet peas and happened to see the man in the UK with the national sweet pea collection on the A to Z of TV gardening and there were both espousing the merits of an Autumn sown plant. I gave up the fight, dragged myself out one fine day in October and grumbling to myself begrudgingly set one root trainers worth of seeds.

February transplanting; un-eaten on the right, eaten on the left
After that not much happened. I was disappointed to see that germination was quite erratic and more disappointed when I missed a slug getting in who managed to graze several seedlings to the ground.That's the problem with winter weather. A lot can happen outside while you are inside wrapped up on the couch watching The Tunnel, eating for Ireland and piling the fire high. The survivors apparently shocked into hibernation by the death of their brothers looked a bit forlorn and miserable while I stared into the cold frame pulling my eyebrows together and fretted about them. By Christmas I gave up fretting, forgot all about sweet peas and concentrated on seed catalogues and new types of tomatoes. They were still alive but not looking like they would amount to much.I was ready to write them off as a failed experiment and send a tweet to Monty to ask him what I was missing.

Sweet peas looking good this April

Around February much to my surprise I realised they were starting to grow, with roots beginning to poke out the bottom of the root trainers. I re-potted them all and once I opened the root trainers I was surprised again to find that almost all of them had in fact germinated and those I thought had failed or had been grazed by slugs were sending up second growth, so I ended up transplanting far more than I had expected to. Over the last two months they have steadily grown taller and bushed out, while in the last few weeks they have been fully hardened off outside. It was really only last week when I put the spring sown sweet pea seedlings beside them that I could see the value of the overwintering plants. They are three times the size, climbing well and looking extremely promising.

Spring sown sweet peas

The final test will be the flower crop outdoors this summer of course. Tomorrow we have a willow weaving workshop planned in Kilmallock for the FETAC 5's where we will all make and bring home willow garden obelisks for climbing plants like our sweet peas. Now all that's left to do is to prepare the ground with horse manure, compost and chicken pellets!

No comments:

Post a Comment