Sweet Peas: Exhibition Culture Under Glass
Sweet Peas are cultivated under glass for two purposes—to obtain an early crop—or to ensure a clean crop for exhibition. In either case the grower can utilize the same glass structure for a following crop of tomatoes, and complete the annual cycle with winter-flowering.
Seeds can be sown in boxes in the last week in September and given the same treatment as plants intended for the garden. Pottingconsists of good turfy loam, well-decayed old manure, and a little sharp sand, all put through a sieve. Pot into 3-in. pots. Strong varieties allowed two stems, will be planted two in a pot. Weaker varieties allowed only one stem to each seedling are put four in a pot. When the roots are filling the small pots, move the plants into 5-in. pots, well drained, and with the same mixture of soil. Press the well down round the sides of the pot, and give a good watering before moving to the cool greenhouse. Plenty of ventilation is required and careful watering. The plants will be ready for 10-12-in. pots when the roots begin to run round the 5-in. ones. This can be discovered by tipping out one of the pots to investigate.
This final potting requires a richer soil. Three barrowloads of loam, one of decayed manure, a 7-in. potful of bone-meal, the same quantity of dry soot, and some finely crushed lime-rubble or sand are the ingredients which need careful mixing.
The pots, too, require special treatment. The hole at the bottom must be increased to 3-4 in. To do this, invert the pot over a solid block of wood and chip away at the edge of the hole with a small hammer. Each pot must be scrubbed clean and well dried before use.
The drainage hole must be covered with clean broken crocks placed concave side downwards. Put about 3 in. of the roughest of the soil into the bottom of the pot, making it quite firm. Now tip the plants out of the 5-in pot, remove the crocks from the bottom of the ball of soil, place it carefully in the middle of the 10-in. pot, adding more soil to make the whole quite firm. Fill to within ii in. of the rim of the pot.
Soak with water, and stand in the cold greenhouse for three weeks; then give all the light and air possible.
Trenches are then prepared in the greenhouse, in. wide and in. deep, putting a layer of old manure, mixed with crushed bones and soot, at the bottom, and two inches of good soil to level off the surface and make a good base for the pots. About the second week in February these will be set in position slightly apart from each other and with soil packed well round and between them, leaving no hollow space. With their rims ih in. below the normal level of the ground in the trench, they are less likely to suffer from lack of water. The pots may need occasional watering and when they do should be well soaked, but the trench will not want watering for some weeks. Surplus water will drain down to the bottom of the trench and will be useful in attracting the roots to the bottom of the pot.
Canes supporting the plants will be tied to a stretched wire running along each side of the trench, as recommended for outdoor growth. The four stems from each pot will be trained two to each side, to four separate canes.
Ventilate plentifully but avoid draughts. On a windy day the windy side of the house should be closed.
When plants have grown to the top of the canes, ie. within 12 in. of the glass, they must be loosened and retied, bent round in a more or less circular form to bring their tops lower on the cane and allow for further growth, so that the crowns shall not be over-crowded when the flowers appear.
Doses of soot-water during the flowering period improve the colour and the plants should be kept well fed and watered.
Orange and salmon varieties will need shading to preserve the tone of their colouring.
Trenches under Glass
Sweetcan be grown in the trenches under glass instead of in pots; are raised in the cold frame, and are given hardy treatment.
In January they are brought into the greenhouse and put close to the glass in a temperature of about 50° for about three weeks.
The trenches are prepared as before, but with the addition of a layer of manure to the soil, and are well soaked three days before planting is done. After-treatment corresponds with that for pot plants.
Pots without Trenches (for decoration only)
The difference in treatment between these and exhibition plants is that the pots are set on a shelf. Four 5-ft. canes are pushed into each pot about 1 in. from the rim, and parallel with the sides of the pot. Raffia tied round the canes provides support. Water is given as required but not to excess.
When the pots become crowded with roots a little liquid manure is given each week, and instead of a top dressing each pot is stood in a larger pan filled with old well-rotted manure.
Should the stalks shorten, or quality deteriorate, a little stimulant in the form of 1 oz. of nitrate of soda dissolved in 4 gallons of water will usually restore the condition of the plants.
Exhibition Hints when Staging for a Show
Cut in the cool of the evening when the flowers are dry; stand them in water in a cool shed or cellar all night or for at least six hours. Choose blooms on the young side, with as long stems as possible—the two top blooms should not be fully open.
While in water let the flowers stand loose in the jar so that air circulates between them. Dry them a little before packing, rolling about 24 sprays into a bunch packed in tissue paper. Do not let water get splashed on the blooms. Unpack as quickly as possible, shake gently to let air get between the blooms and put the stems in water again before staging.
Use only Sweet Pea foliage, unless the schedule clearly states, as sometimes in decorative classes, that other foliage is allowed.
Stage one variety in each vase with its name clearly shown.
Bring extra sprays of all the varieties to be staged, lest any become damaged.