Growing Lathyrus Odoratus (Sweet Peas) in Zone 6b/7

Hi Lovelies!

I’m back with another growing tutorial!  Want to see the post with photos and videos in it’s entirety? Click here! Hooray! 

Sweet peas (not the edible kind) are gorgeous and smell absolutely divine! Unfortunately, however, they can be somewhat difficult to grow depending upon where you live. In fact, before I started growing flowers for myself, I had never even seen them “in real life”. Sweet peas are a wonderful addition to the flower garden. Hopefully, this post helps others start bringing the joy of vintage plants back into their homes!

When to plant sweet pea seeds depends greatly upon where you live. If you live further North, where temperatures in the spring remain cooler, it’s likely you’d be fine planting sweet peas in the spring time. However, some gardens (like mine) experience very little spring weather before temperatures soar into the 80s and 90s. My garden is in Kentucky, zone 6b/7. It’s not uncommon in my area to feel as if we “skip” spring and have hot, humid weather early in the season. These are NOT ideal growing conditions for these delicate blooms. Ideally, we want cool and moist soil as the plants begin to grow. This means that I have to start thinking about spring blooms way ahead of time!

Regardless of whether you’re planting in the spring or the fall, the first step to planting sweet peas is to soak the seeds 6-8 hours in water. Some folks I know insist that you should soak the seeds overnight, but the shorter amount of time seems to work just the same, without the worry of over-soaking (and the seeds later rotting in the ground).
Sweet peas are very heavy feeders, so it’s best to be generous when amending the soil. Plants grown in soil without enough nourishment will be small and disappointing. Trust me, I’ve learned from experience! As I prepare the beds for planting, I add both compost and pelleted seabird guano. The sweet peas seem to absolutely love it!
After we’ve soaked our seeds and amended our soil, it’s time to figure out how we actually want to plant our sweet peas. Whether planting in the fall or the spring, direct sowing is an easy option. Seeds germinate well in cooler temperatures (as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring). However, it’s also important to note that if the soil is too wet or too cold – the seeds will rot. Ugh! Sowing seed indoors, or in containers is another great option. Although, it’s important to keep in mind that sweet peas can have extremely long tap roots. Hence, the importance of working the soil deeply! Sweet pea seedlings will not be happy in traditional seed starting trays. While many people use something called “root trainers”, I’ve found that I can cheaply accomplish the same task by cutting 2 litre soda bottles in half and filling them with soil. Cheap and easy!
Sweet pea plants are surprisingly cold tolerant. Even in my zone where temperatures can dip down to 0F on occasion, I’ve had great success with direct sowing in the fall and overwintering the seedlings until spring. If you have a greenhouse or hoophouse, that’s even better! Without any winter protection in my zone, the survival rate of sweet pea seedlings through the winter is about 50%. When covered with a layer of 6mil plastic sheeting from the hardware store (like a low tunnel), that number goes up to about 98%. For me; the whole process is based on trial, error, and pushing the limits of my growing zone.
If the idea of taking a “risk” by planting in the fall doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry! There’s yet another option! Winter sowing! Now, let me be clear – I mean the winter sowing method. If you’ve never heard of it before, I’ve included my video for it above. I discovered this method a few years ago, and when I say that it was a total game-changer for my garden – I mean it! The winter sowing method is great for anyone that has trouble germinating flower seeds, doesn’t have money for an indoor setup, doesn’t have the space to start seeds indoors, and still wants gorgeous flowers! In my zone, sweet pea seeds planted in containers at the beginning of February germinate and begin growing. By the time the soil is workable, the plants are the perfect size for transplanting. Everyone’s garden is different, so of course, getting the hang of winter sowing may take some trial and error, as well! If you’re going to winter sow sweet peas, do NOT soak the seeds! Nature will take care of that for you!
Once the seedlings grow to be several inches tall, “pinching” back the plants will help them to produce more blooms later. Since we’re not growing these for exhibition, we want there to be as many flowers as possible. Simply snip off the growing tip when plants reach about 6″-8″ in height. Make sure to leave several sets of leaves on the stem. When planting in the fall, I wait until the next spring to pinch the flowers, regardless of their height.
That’s it! You’ve planted, amended, fertilized and pinched! Now, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the insanely sweet and beautiful fragrance in your garden! Unfortunately, sweet peas are very short-lived in my garden. Once the weather heats up, the plants begin to yellow and fade away – this usually happens around the first week of July here. Bummer! Aphids are another concern for sweet peas, but are easily controlled with a strong burst of water from the hose.
Not only are sweet peas fabulous in the garden, they also make great cut flowers! Check out this mini-bouquet that I was able to make with some of my fall sown hardy annual flowers! If you’d like to see more “how to grow” videos, let me know in the comments!
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Handcrafted Garden Soap + Cosmetics

Hi Lovelies!

I’ve noticed that this is quickly becoming a pattern. I only update the blog when something exciting is happening. I swear I’m going to work on that in the future. In fact, I’ve actually got a pretty good plan for improving the blog in the long run – but, we’re not talking about that today!

We’re officially on IndieGoGo! That’s right! If you’ve always wanted to support the blog, now is the chance!

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Easy Chrysanthemum Cuttings – No Lights, No Greenhouse! Yes!

Hi Lovelies,

So, chrysanthemums. I’m not talking about the chrysanthemums that you always see for sale out in front of the grocery store in the fall, I’m talking about those amazingly gorgeous florist mums. To be completely honest, before I started this venture into flower growing – I had no idea that these things even existed.

Fast forward to actually attempting to grow them for the first time last year. Chrysanthemum plants are grown from cuttings. I really don’t know the specifics of this, but apparently, the best flowers come from plants with fresh root stock. Don’t quote me on that exactly, but I’m fairly certain I’m repeating what was explained to me, in the simplest way possible. Maybe someone who knows more can weigh-in down in the comments?

So, I planted my freshly ordered cuttings into the hoophouse and things were looking great. I had some nice growth going on, and had even pinched (or stopped) them for the first time. Then, I walked out one morning to find that a cat had decided that the hoophouse was an awesome place to give birth and raise a family. Hesitantly, I abandoned the hoophouse for awhile until the adorable kittens were big enough for homes. Weeks later, it was overrun with 4ft high weeds. It seemed to be a lost cause, and I abandoned the thought to chrysanthemum blooms for the season. I waited until fall, then mowed down the hoophouse plants.

Much to my surprise the chrysanthemum “stools” (Gross, I know. That’s what they’re called!) began to sprout new foliage in February. This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, as I knew that they could somehow be overwintered, and hardy to zone 8 (I think, not certain).  In fact, new growth was actually my hope in leaving the plants in place.

Now that plants began to grow, I was faced with a new dilemma! The previous year, I had tried taking chrysanthemum cuttings under grow lights in the house. It was a complete failure! Not a single cutting made it. The truth is – I don’t have quality grow lights, I don’t have a greenhouse, my hoophouse is very limited, and I don’t have very much experience. This is NOT a good combination for success in taking plant cuttings. I won’t even mention the fact that I just don’t have the money to invest new plants, lol.  The whole situation was really a big mess, ugh!

I began to reflect on my experiences with winter sowing. In a sense, winter sowing containers are nothing more than mini-propagators, acting to provide the best conditions for seed germination. With this thought, I had one of those awesome eureka-light bulb-type moments! I would put my cuttings into winter sowing containers, and root the cuttings outside! Even though the weather had still not turned and I was far from being frost-free, this was a HUGE SUCCESS. 38/38 cuttings. 100% SUCCESS. If you’re not familiar with winter sowing, you can learn a little more about it below:

Winter sowing has done so much for me, in terms of leveling the playing field. For someone with essentially nothing to work with, being able to start seeds (and now propagate) outside was been a total game-changer.

Here’s how I did it:

End of February – I notice new growth on the chrysanthemum stools (last year’s chrysanthemum plant after being cut back). I dig them up and place them into winter sowing containers to encourage new and more rapid growth.

End of March/Early April – Stools have produced enough new growth to take cuttings. I wasn’t specific about this. I simply snapped off 1-2 inch stems from the plants, usually directly under a leaf node. Then, I put the cuttings into their own winter sowing containers. After I sealed the winter sowing containers, I placed them into cool spot. I chose a place that receives sunlight in the early morning and shade in the afternoon and evening. Keeping the containers moist was also a key aspect. I used normal potting soil, and went without rooting hormone (I didn’t have any, lol).

Beginning of May – By the beginning of May. All 38 of the cuttings had taken root. During hot days (80F and above), I sometimes removed the tops of the winter sowing containers. In fact, after the cuttings had rooted, I permanently removed the tops of the containers.

That’s it! I hope that this was somehow helpful! If you’re more of a visual person, definitely be on the lookout for the YouTube video for this post – most likely sometime next week! What are your experiences with chrysanthemum cuttings? I’d love to know all about it in the comments! Hope you’re having a great day! 🙂

2017 Winter Sowing Results

Hi Lovelies!

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It’s definitely been awhile. I’ll admit, I really hate saying that because it makes me realize just how much I really do neglect the blog. I always keep meaning to finally sit down and write up a post, but it always seems like a million other things that I need to do suddenly take precedence. Sorry about that, folks.

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Anywho, this is a post I’ve been meaning to finally sit down and finish for at least a couple weeks – this year’s winter sowing results.

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If you’re unfamiliar with what winter sowing is, I’ve already got a post in which I prepare containers and talk at a little more length. You can find it by clicking here!

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I also have already published a rather extensive list of flowers that I began by winter sowing last year. You can find that by clicking here. If I remember correctly, I go into detail about the success and failure of around 50 different flower varieties that I winter sowed into containers. If I had a different experience this year, I’ll also go ahead and include them in my list in this year’s post. I hope that made sense….

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Hurry up, already! Tell me about what you winter sowed this year!

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This year was quite different than last year. Much to my surprise, the winter was relatively warm and short. I imagine that this may have helped/harmed various seedlings in different ways, but nonetheless, these are my findings:

**Indicates sensitivity to frost

  1. Feverfew – Winter sown in January and February. Excellent germination. Transplanted into the garden before last frost had passed.
  2. Monarda – Winter sown in February. Poor germination around 50%. Will definitely try again, perhaps at a later planting date.
  3. Salvia coccinea – Winter sown in January. Poor germination around 30%. Will try again at a later planting date.
  4. Salvia horminum – Winter sown in January and February. Excellent germination. Transplanted into the garden before the last frost had passed.
  5. Snapdragons – Winter sown in January. Total failure. Previous winter sowings have been very successful with snapdragons. I believe the failure was caused by inconsistent moisture in containers. Will definitely try again next year.
  6. Pansies – Winter sown in January. Excellent germination. Transplanted into the garden before the last frost date had passed. Flowers are currently in bloom.
  7. Cathedral Bells/Cup and Saucer Vine** – Winter sown in February and the end of March. Seeds in February rotted in the container. Total failure. March sowing was extremely successful. Excellent germination. The higher temperatures seemed to be the key to success, despite the instructions on the packet. I’m really, really excited about growing this one!
  8. Hibiscus/Roselle**- Winter sown at the end of March. Last year was a failure. However, this year had excellent results. Seeds are VERY sensitive to rot. Do NOT soak seeds. Make sure medium is evenly moist, but not too wet. Will continue to winter sow these, as they need an extended season.
  9. Quinoa – Winter sown in January. Excellent germination. Do not transplant well. Total loss after transplant. Likely will not winter sow again.
  10. Sweet Peppers** – Pre-sprouted at the end of March and then placed in winter sowing containers. Excellent success rate. Requires cover. Very frost sensitive.
  11. Tomatoes** – Pre-sprouted at the end of March and then placed in winter sowing containers. Excellent success rate. Requires cover. Very frost sensitive.
  12. Celosia** – Winter sown in March. Excellent germination. Previous sowings in February resulted in failure.
  13. Morning Glory** – Winter sown in March. Excellent germination. Previous sowings in February resulted in failure. Warmer weather helped germination. Also, sensitive to moisture and prone to rot. Do not soak.
  14. Lettuce – Winter sown in January and February. Excellent germination. Transplanted into the garden before the last frost had passed.
  15. Alpine Strawberries – Winter sown in January. Good germination rate. Slow growing. Cold hardy, no trouble tolerating frost. Transplanted into herb garden containers.
  16. Scarlet Flax – Winter sown in January. Excellent germination rate. Extremely fast growing. Was not able to transplant into the garden fast enough before plants went to seed in their containers. I plan on trying over winter these plants in the fall, instead.
  17. Annual Phlox – Winter sown in January and February. Excellent germination. Seem to benefit from cold and temperature fluctuation. Planted out into the garden before the last frost date had passed. Will try to over winter these plants this fall.
  18. Cotton** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination. Will continue to winter sow these, as they need an extended season.
  19. Peanuts** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination. Will continue to winter sow these, as they need an extended season.
  20. Leeks – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination rate. Very easy to separate.
  21. Onions – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination rate. Very easy to separate.
  22. Spinach – Winter sown at the end of January. Around 70% germination. Don’t seem to like being transplanted. I will most likely just direct sow the seeds in the future.
  23. Orach – Winter sown in February. Excellent germination. Very fast growing. May be easier to direct sow as soon as soil is workable. Will try to over winter these in the fall.
  24. Shiso/Perilla**(?) – Winter sown at the end of February and March. Excellent germination. Somewhat sensitive to transplanting. However, the germination rate was much better compared to the seeds that were direct sown. Will definitely winter sow these again. Looking forward to seeing these bloom.
  25. Broccoli – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination. Easy to transplant. Will definitely continue to winter sow in the future.
  26. Cauliflower – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination. Easy to transplant. Will definitely continue to winter sow in the future. IMG_1040
  27. Brussels Sprouts – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination. Easy to transplant. Will definitely continue to winter sow in the future.
  28. Kale – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination. Easy to transplant. Will definitely continue to winter sow in the future.
  29. Artichokes – Winter sown at the end of February. Excellent germination, though the seeds are sensitive to rot. Ensure that medium is moist, but not too wet. Prolonged cold also caused problems in the past. Do not soak the seeds. Transplanted well. Artichokes need a period of cool weather to trigger flowering, hopefully winter sowing achieved this.
  30. Celery – Winter sown in February. Excellent germination. Transplanted into the garden before last frost date had passed.
  31. Tomatillos** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination. Extremely fast growing. Will most likely direct sow in the future.
  32. Wheat – Winter sown in January. Excellent germination. Very robust and easy to transplant. It’s definitely easier to direct sow as soon as soil can be worked, but winter sowing is a viable option if the soil is an issue early on.
  33. Basil** –  Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination. Easy to transplant. I have so much basil that I don’t even have enough space to plant it all.
  34. Chamomile – Winter sown in January. Excellent germination. Very cold hardy. Small plants are difficult to transplant. May be easier to just direct sow as soon as the soil can be worked. Transplanted into the garden before the last frost has passed.
  35. Cilantro – Winter sown at the end of February. Excellent germination. Transplanted easily. Winter sown plants in the garden are healthier than those seeds which were direct sowed. IMG_0728
  36. Dill – Winter sown at the end of February. Excellent germination. Transplanted easily. May be easier to direct sow as soon as the soil can be worked.
  37. Lavender – Winter sown in January. Excellent germination (at least for lavender, 14/20 seeds). Very healthy and fragrant seedlings transplanted into herb container after the danger of frost had passed. Really excited about this success!
  38. Mint – Winter sown in January. Excellent germination. Easy to transplant. I seriously have so much mint, I don’t even know what I’m going to do with it.
  39. Ageratum**(?) – Winter sown in January. Ageratum containers were a failure this year. Last year’s were very successful. I’m not sure what caused the issue this year.
  40. Bupleurum – Winter sown in January. Very poor germination for the second year in a row. I will not be winter sowing it again.
  41. Calendula – Winter sown in February and March. Excellent germination. Fast growing plants.
  42. Cosmos** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination. Quickly began to outgrow their winter sowing containers. Though these plants are easy to direct sow, I really enjoy having healthy transplants.
  43. Wild Dagga** – Winter sown at the end of March. 2/10 seed germination. I don’t know much about this plant at all.
  44. Shasta Daisy – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination. Healthy and hearty transplants.
  45. Flowering Cabbage – Winter sown in January and February. Excellent germination. Transplanted into the garden before the last frost date had passed.
  46. Gaillardia – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination. Healthy and hearty transplants. IMG_1052
  47. Globe Amaranth** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination rate. Easy to transplant.
  48. Heliotrope**(?) – Winter sown at the end of March. 60% germination rate. I know very little about this plant. The seedlings seem to be very slow growing, so I’ve planted them in a container to watch them closer. Will try again next year, perhaps winter sowing them earlier.
  49. Marigolds** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination and extremely easy to transplant. Nearly outgrowing their containers before being planted out into the garden.
  50. Nicotiana**(?) – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination and extremely easy to transplant.
  51. Nasturtiums – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination and extremely easy to transplant. Last year’s failure was due to rotting seeds. Be careful not to plant too soon to avoid prolonged periods of cold. Also, keep medium evenly moist. Do not soak seeds before planting into winter sowing containers.
  52. Rudbeckias – Winter sown at the end of January and February. Excellent germination. Healthy and hearty transplants.
  53. Statice – Winter sown in February. Excellent germination rate and easy to transplant before the last frost has passed.
  54. Strawflower – Winter sown in February. Excellent germination rate and easy to transplant before the last frost has passed.
  55. Scented Stocks – Winter sown in February. Excellent germination rate and easy to transplant before the last frost has passed.
  56. Sweet Annie – Winter sown in February. Excellent germination rate and easy to transplant before the last frost has passed. Very fragrant!IMG_0763
  57. Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odorata) – Winter sown in February. Excellent germination rate and easy to transplant before the last frost has passed. Previous failures were the result of rotted seeds. Keep evenly moist, but not wet. Do not soak seeds before planting to containers.
  58. Tithonia** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination. Germinating in winter sowing bottles has proved more successful that direct sowing. I will continue to winter sow.
  59. Zinnia** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination.
  60. Indigo** – Winter sown at the end of March. Excellent germination.
  61. Verbena – Total failure. Sown at the end of March. Containers completely dried out for over a week – totally my own fault.

That’s it! I hope that this giant list was somehow helpful. Thanks for taking the time to read, and of course, don’t forget to check out the YouTube channel if you haven’t already. It would really mean a lot to me – simply search for “freshcutky”. Bye! 🙂