Monday, 23 May 2011

Exhibition sweet peas - taking off side shoots and tendrils.

In order to get really big flowers on sweet peas, I take off the side shoots and tendrils on the main stem.  I try to take the side shoots off before they get too big but they do grow very quickly. If you leave them for any length of time, bigger ones have to be removed .  The big ones I cut out with a pair of scissors, while the smaller ones can be pinched out with finger and thumb.
Sweet pea with side shoots and tendrils.
You can see that this Restormel sweet pea is lolling about because I had not tied it up for about 3 days.  They have grown very quickly and you have to keep an eye on them.  If the stem distorts, then the flowers are not as good as they would be from straight stems.  There are no flower buds on this plant although it should be developing flowers fairly soon now.

In order to keep the stem as straight as I can, I tie the stem or leaves onto the cane with green garden wire.  Garden wire is quite a harsh material to tie them up with and it can damage the leaves or stem.  This disadvantage has to be tempered with the advantage of speed.  If I had to tie up each sweet pea plant with string, it would take much longer than the three hours it took to take off the tendrils; remove the side shoots and tie the stems yesterday afternoon.

Row of tied up Valerie Harrod Sweet pea
I had taken off all the tendrils and the side shoots of the Valerie Harrod before I remembered I wanted to take a photograph of sweet peas with them left on.  The plants are over 300mm tall now so they will be forming their first flower buds.  The first flower stalks usually have two or three flower buds.  I am aiming to get at least four flower buds on each stem.  In order for the flowers to be exhibition standard they should be fairly equal distance apart with no big gaps on the stem.  If you are growing outside, then this is quite difficult to achieve.  Those growing indoors will be able to regulate the watering and feeding to a much higher degree and this means the flowers will be more evenly distributed.  

The aim for me is to produce as near to exhibition standard as I can outside.  

You might find this funny but I am not planning to exhibit any of my sweet pea flowers.  The fun for me is to see if I can get my flowers better than those that do exhibit their flowers.  

Like the last scene in the Jericho Mile with Peter Strauss, I've got my own Olympics going on here.  It's all about awe and wonder.  

Awe, I wonder why I'm doing this.

To get a full description of how I grow sweet peas have a look at:

The nematode worms arrived on Thursday last week and I put them on the allotment on Friday.  It says that you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days without damaging them.  I put them on the squashes, the climbing French beans, the courgettes, the runner beans, the lettuce and the beetroot.  All plants that slugs seem to devour with relish.  They seem to be doing their job because the climbing French beans are beginning to recover from their devastation.  The rhubarb seemed to be affected by slugs and snails so I put some nematodes under their leaves.

I planted two rows of bortolloti beans in the pea and bean bed.  It might still be too early for things like these but it is getting towards the end of May so, regardless of the unseasonal weather, I would be putting them out now anyway.  I watered them in with dilute comfrey liquid but I did not add mychorrhizal fungi to the planting hole.  When I planted the seed I put some mychorrhizal fungi in the pot.  I just have enough room to plant the Cannellini beans.

This bed was hoed with the big hoe and the onion hoe.

I took off the nets and hoed between the brassicae plants.  They all seem to be growing very well.

I seemed to have sown the turnip and the radish very thinly because although they have germinated there are not as many as I was expecting.  I am going to sow another row of them this week so it does not matter a great deal.

I took out a row of brocolli plants I had planted earlier in order to plant some red Brussel sprouts.  There is no way that I will use the brocolli from three rows so I thought  I could sacrifice one in the cause of novel Brussel sprouts.  The Brussel sprouts were a freebe given to me by "Tony down the bottom".  Thanks Tony.

Another freebe that Andy gave me was two red cabbage.  Now this is sensible because sometimes I put a full row of red cabbage in and there is just so much pickled cabbage that you can eat in a year or two...

Two red cabbages are sufficient.

The only brassicas that I like to feed are the cabbages and the summer cauliflowers.  I gave each row a good dose of dilute comfrey liquid.  Now remember that the "comfrey liquid" is really a mixture of nettles, sweet cicely and comfrey so has a relatively high nitrogen content.  This is what we want for leafy vegetables.

Most of the time I spend on the allotment  is in  keeping the weeds down so hoeing with Dutch hoe, swoe and onion hoe seems to take up a lot of my time.  I had to hand weed between the climbing French beans and the runner beans because it was awkward to get the hoe into the space between the canes.

I also like to hand weed along the rows of roots because then you can start to thin out as well.  I will definitely have  to thin the carrots this week.

The onions got a good feed with dilute comfrey liquid and were sprayed with some gumption to keep the onion miner fly away.  I doubt whether it will but you can try.

I planted another row of lettuce; a row of leeks and a row of celeriac in the space I had left.  Now allotment 26 is full and I cannot squeeze anything else into it.

I hoed up the pink fir apple potatoes a little more.  They did not really need it but it helps to hoe out the weeds.  There weren't many weeds to speak of but what there were were dealt with.

Picked some more strawberries.  Then went down to the comfrey patch to plant some walking stick cabbages.  They are just a novelty plant but I want to see peoples faces when they start to grow very big.

The second row of the Woden beetroot and the rainbow Swiss chard have germinated and are starting to grow well.

I took several lettuce from the first row I planted together with spinach and rocket to make a salad with.  They have gone a bit limp from Sunday but I still put them into a sandwich today and they tasted fantastic.  With a following of strawberries and cream what else could you want?

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