Sow chilly

Osmanthus fragrans (Sweet olive)I’ve gone soft.  The thaw we had a couple of weeks ago has totally ruined me for the rest of winter.  I can’t go outside in the freeze anymore without complaining every bit as bitterly as the wind that has been blowing through my hat.  But when the sun is shining, it’s toasty warm in the greenhouse and I have every reason to stay comfortably happy (and a little soft) inside. – Because with the sun’s rise over the winter hump, the growing season is beginning in earnest.  There’s new growth on plants that have been sitting tight, biding their time ’til the sun came out and there has been a baby boom of aphids and white fly and scale  – they’re born to feed on all that delicious tender growth.  We are actually waiting to fertilize the greenhouse so that we can slow down the critters first.  (Mission impossible?…)

And it’s time to sow our first batch of seeds which need the night’s chill (60 and below) to grow and be happy.  We’ll be starting 13 varieties of sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) tomorrow – that’s down from 17 or 18 last year. – I was very restrained with our order this year!  In Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens, Wayne Winterrowd talks at length about the proper methods for germinating sweet peas.  It’s common practice to nick or soak sweet peas before sowing them but we don’t do either one.  We simply sow them a 1/2″ deep in pots filled with a fairly fine textured potting mix (Metro 300 series with Coir).  We water them in, keep the pots evenly moist, and wait – usually about 2 weeks.

Mr. Winterrowd also mentions that sweet peas don’t like their roots disturbed at all when planted and we’ve been doing that for years too by pulling the peat pot off when we plant them.  The transplants do seem to take a little while to get going though I can’t say that we’ve ever lost any or had anything but a stupendous show at exactly their right moment.  Perhaps sweet peas are not as delicate and fussy as they’re made out to be.  That said, we have made a change in the pot department – this year we will be sowing them in pots made of coir (coconut husk – a renewal resource) which can be safely planted in the ground and will degrade much faster than peat which tends to take ages to break down.

Coir pots ready for seeds

Do you grow sweet peas too?  Do you generally follow a seed packet or a how-to guide’s instructions to the letter or do you work out your own methods?  Have you been successful even against the odds?