2023 Field Notes

Sweet Pea -- Lathyrus odoratus -- Mammoth Choice & Royal Mix


Sown 4/16
Germination 4/21 (5 days)

Germination counts
4/21, 6pm: 3
4/22, 9am: 12
4/22, 3pm: 24
4/23, 9am: 40
4/24, 7am: 52
4/24, 2pm: 56
4/26, 7am: 60
4/27, 7am: 62
4/28, 7am: 66
COUNT AFTER THINNING: 29 Royal, 22 Mammoth (51)

4/16 -- The seed packet recommended soaking these for 24 hours prior to sowing, but I didn't have time for that, so I soaked them for about six hours prior to sowing. Sowed into a 72 cell, used potting mix, buried the seeds the recommended 1/4 to 1/2 inch (erred toward 1/4, due to the lack of soaking), two seeds per cell (as was also recommended). I ended up sowing 63 Royal Mix and 55 Mammoth Choice, so not every cell had two in the end.

4/21 -- Germination! I only noticed because I accidentally started sowing Strawflower into this tray - oops! Didn't get far, fortunately, because I noticed the first germinated pea.

4/23 -- Looking good here - coming up on 40% germinated, more every time I look.

4/29 -- Up to 66 of these - a decent germination rate of 56%. I get why Johnny's recommends two per cell! These are getting phenomenally tall - and while they are theoretically a couple of weeks from being put outside, I MAY move that up - they're getting awfully big awfully fast, plus they like the cooler weather. I'm guessing I probably should have started these two weeks before I did, but I sort of misread the instructions, and interpreted "four weeks" as "four weeks before frost", when in reality it was "four weeks before putting them out" and you can do that in cooler conditions. I will need to trellis these, of course, so I'll be working on that infrastructure soon. I should also note that next time I shouldn't back myself into a corner and not have time to do the 24 hour recommended soak!

5/6 -- Thinned these a few days ago, which, as is typical with thinning, was painful. I hate pulling perfectly good seedlings! Ended up pulling 10 Royal Mix, leaving 29, and 5 Mammoth, leaving 22.

5/24 -- Transplanted out 30 of these into a 4x8 bed, with two rows and trellis on each row. 15 a side, eight to one side of the trellis, seven on the other side. The left side ended up being Royal Mix, which were slightly better and more numerous. Mammoth Mix went on the right side. In the end, I decided to pinch these - many of them were over a foot long, which meant they were big enough to pinch, and after reading that these can get NINE feet tall if you let them, decided pinching was the way to go. In most cases, I took off between 1/3 and 1/2 of each seedling, leaving enough on the plant to allow the bottom of the trellis to do it's job and support them. The next week will tell the story here - hopefully these take well to this move and trim! Watered them in with high phosphorus fertilizer and also added some compost to the surface for extra moisture retention.

5/28 -- A few days in, these look...fine! I see side shoots forming.

6/1 -- And...just like that, some of these did not look fine today. The weather this week has been extremely dry, and it has been getting hotter and hotter throughout the week, culminating in 90+ degree days today and tomorrow. Turns out, some of the sweet peas don't care for this weather very much, despite my keeping them watered. I pulled seven of these this afternoon, and managed to find exactly seven replacements from the greenhouse tray, although that too was a challenge. If any more of these fail, I'm out of luck, I think. The ones I pulled were all straight-out crispy, not saggy, so I think they were toast. The replacements look good, and I chose NOT to pinch them, at least for now, so as not to add extra stress. Once the weather cools off in two days time, we'll see what I do then. I heavily, individually watered every plant in the bed. 
Interestingly, SIX of the seven I pulled were Mammoth Mix plants. As I mentioned above, the Royal Mix seedlings were better and more numerous - now I have proof positive that they were better. I pulled only one Royal Mix and that was a borderline case. The balance of the bed is now way off, but better that than dead plants!

6/4 -- One final replacement, managed to find another one in the tray that looked OK. I also twined in some of the larger seedlings.

6/9 -- Final final replacements - found a couple more that looked decent enough to replace a couple in the end that weren't exactly thriving. Really done now - the tray has been emptied and retired.

6/13 -- Many of these look good and took to the pinching very nicely - a couple of them now have four stems! A couple of others look pretty dead. So it's a mixed bag overall. We'll see how it goes!

6/25 -- Despite these plants actually looking pretty good and now having multiple stalks, I'm wondering if the pinching was the right call. None of these is taller than a foot, despite looking pretty good. We'll see if they starting growing UP now, hopefully they do.

7/2 -- In the same place as my last update. These are very bushy, still growing, and rather disorganized. Still, I'm seeing signs of good things to come, so hopefully we'll have flowers before too long!

7/3 -- First flower spotted! A purple one.

7/8 -- More flowers have popped up, but just a few - some pinks and reds. Plants still look strong though, expecting more color in the week ahead.

7/15 -- More and more flowers showing up, though not a super colorful display yet. Pinching these definitely resulted in pretty unruly plants! They look happy on the whole but very difficult to get under control, even with trellis in place.

8/5 -- These are starting to fade, which isn't a huge surprise. Pinching them probably wasn't the right decision, although I suppose that's debatable. These ended up becoming extremely unruly - the plants clearly thrived but made a mess of themselves! I did end up getting some very pretty flowers but not as many as I would have liked, and I'm guessing this is because I was late getting them in, and then the pinching had them focusing their energy on side shoots and not flowers.

8/25 -- About half of these have died off. The other half - my goodness what a mess! Still growing, making occasional flowers, but even more unruly every day. Very interesting, these. Definitely want to try them again next year, earlier and way more organized. Oh and by the way, they smell as nice as advertised. Hadn't mentioned that yet for some reason.

9/4 -- I've pulled out 3/4ths of these, leaving behind only one section where the plants were still alive. They're not long for this world either, will probably be pulling them by next weekend.

9/22 -- These have been done for a while now, will be pulling the remaining 1/4 of these this weekend, weather permitting.

RETROSPECTIVE -- First year doing these, and was definitely a mixed bag, more negative than positive. The plants themselves were healthy and robust for sure - no complaints there. But they definitely underwhelmed in the flower department, which was a shame. I think there are two main reasons why. The most important one is that I sowed them too late. This was a misreading of the seed packet, a pretty silly error on my part. Then, when I did transplant them, I decided to pinch them to keep them from getting too tall. The compounded my error, I believe - the plants got insanely leggy after this, making so many side shoots and not enough flowers. The weather didn't help me a lot either - it got hot early which killed off some of my seedlings early on. The flowers I did get were lovely and smelled great, so excited to see what happens if I do these right.


THOUGHTS ON NEXT YEAR -- I'm definitely inclined to do these again. I'd sow them the same, and just plant them out way earlier and let them get way more established in the cooler weather they like during their early days. The pinching, I'm not sure about. Probably a situation where I'll pinch some of them and not others and see what happens.