sweet peas – a winter sowing

sweet pea tubes gardening blogI wasn’t going to bother with a winter sowing of sweet peas. Last year most of my first batch were gobbled by mice and I’m not convinced the ones that made it did better than those sowed in the spring.

But as the days get colder and darker, it lifts the spirits to plan for next summer. On Sunday, M and I tore open three of the six packets of seed I ordered from Easton Walled Gardens and made a start.

Sweet peas love to grow nice long roots, so we’ve been saving loo rolls and kitchen rolls for them. The added bonus is that the cardboard should just disintegrate when we plant them out, meaning we won’t need to disturb them too much.

When it came to filling the tubes with compost, M struggled with their open-ends. So I took the frugal option for my seeds and let her have some biodegradable fibre pots.sweet peas gardening blog

Each packet had at least one seed more than the 15 we were expecting, perhaps they add extra for the inevitable rodent robbers. It was just as well since M dropped hers and a few rolled under the shed floor. I suspect there is a mouse or three living down there, so I hope it won’t trigger them to go sweet pea hunting.

sweet pea tray gardening blog

M is having a pink phase, so she claimed Miss Wilmott for the biodegradable pots. I sowed Dorothy Eckford and Lord Nelson in loo rolls, which in hindsight seems a little disrespectful.

When we were done, we gave them a drink and left them in the cold greenhouse to germinate. I suppose I could have set a mouse trap next to them, but I didn’t have the heart to. We can always grow more in the spring.

This Q&A from Easton Walled Gardens has some good sweet pea growing advice. I didn’t come across it until after we sowed ours, but if they haven’t been devoured by mice yet, I’ll move them to the porch which is just as cold but hopefully a little more mouse-proof than the greenhouse.

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next year’s foxgloves

Six weeks or so ago, we plucked a couple of foxglove seedpods. Each was a little capsule filled with thousands of seeds barely the size of a pinhead. foxglove seed head gardening blog

We sprinkled them over a tray of compost to see what would happen. Within days the tray had sprouted a dense green mass of tiny seedlings.

foxglove seedlings gardening blog

Last year we lost several batches after they germinated, so I didn’t hold out much hope for our homegrown seeds. But they kept going, and when I checked on them this week they were clearly ready for pricking out.

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Since we had more than we could possibly hope to use in the garden, I decided it wouldn’t be the end of the world if a few got snapped. So I let M loose on a tray of her own.

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She was very careful, talking softly to them as she tucked them into their pots. But I noticed more than one looked a bit deficient in the root department after she separated it from the others.

It doesn’t matter. When we were in the garden this afternoon, I noticed swathes of tiny self-sown foxglove seedlings. They’re a few weeks behind the ones we pricked out, but if only a fraction survive the winter we’re going to be engulfed in them come spring.

Here’s a post about this year’s foxgloves.

 

foxgloves for free

foxgloves in evening sun

We had several failed attempts at growing foxgloves from seed last year.

The first batch didn’t germinate. The second batch gave us some teeny tiny seedlings which suddenly died for no apparent reason.

Then we had one last try late in the summer with a free packet that came with a gardening magazine. We didn’t expect anything to come of it, but the seedlings sprouted and thrived. Hundreds of them!

One September evening after M had gone to bed, Steve and I spent a couple of hours painstakingly pricking them out. Then we left them to their own devices with just an occasional drop of water over the winter.

Come spring, virtually all of them had survived. We have been giving them away to anyone who will take them, and have planted groups of them  in shady spots all round the garden.

This week they are finally starting to flower…

looking up at foxgloves

foxgloves in the evening sun

 

foxglove bee

bees can’t get enough of them…

 

yellow foxglove

wouldn’t have chosen yellow if they hadn’t been free, but it’s growing on me

Hopefully some of them will self-seed and we’ll have even more foxgloves next year.