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Early Autumn frost

Posted By: Paul 08/12/2009 09:34:00

This week we had ourfirst frost. Most of the country has already had several but for us in the warm south west the frosts are quite late.

 Looking at the pressure charts from the MetOffice it looks like we are in for a period of high pressure, and at this time of the year that will mean cold nights, misty mornings and lovely sunny autumn days. Great weather for diggingthis weekend!

When I have finished the digging I will be sowing next years sweet peas. The method I am going to use is to sow one seed per pot, or you can use sweet pea tubes, and put them in the greenhouse. In late winter I will move them into 1 litre pots and when the 5th leaf has been produced I will pinch it out to encourage stronger stem growth. This may seem a shame but the plant would have effectively done the same thing on it's own as it would have grown to about 12 inches tall and then produced side shoots, so in reality you are saving the energy of the plant by pinching it out earlier. Another tip for growing the sweet peas is to grow them as cool as possible or they will become leggy. They are a true hardy plant and will benefit for a cool growing environment.

In April when the peas are ready for sowing out dig a 1 metre trench and apply a low nitrogen base fertiliser. Then build a frame using a 2 metre tall 'T' at each end and bamboo canes spaced between the two 'T's. Run some wire from the two sides of the 'T's and tie the canes to them. Plant one sweet pea at the base of each cane and water in well. On each plant select the strongest shoot and tieto the cane, and remove the others. Training the peas for the best flower production is a case of removing all tendrils and side shoots, and even the first few flowers. In the height of the growing season you will be picking flowers on one day and removing shoots the next. After a while some strong flowers will be produced for keeping, but you must cut ALL the flowers and not allow the peas to set seed. When the plants reach to top of the canes untie all the plants and lay them on the ground. Then starting from one plant lay it along the ground and then up the third cane away from it's original cane. Repeat with all the plants. This process of 'Layering' the peas will force them into producing the largest and strongest flowers, and is the same technique used by growers for producing plants for competition. You should now be enjoying a very strong and productive growth to your sweat peas.

A tip I was given the other day for keeping canes at their best was to stand new canes in a bucket of clear Cuprinol for a few days before use. This will help preserve them. Don't use the coloured Cuprinol as it will scorch the plants growing up the canes.

Happy Gardening!

Paul

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