A New Season of Winter Sowing

It’s finally here!

Yet another season of winter sowing. If you’re not familiar with winter sowing, a quick search of either this blog or my YouTube channel will definitely yield some results. Winter sowing has quickly become one of my favorite gardening techniques. In fact, I’ve tried (with mostly success) to use the winter sowing technique with nearly every kind of plant that I grow. Obviously, hard to germinate seeds like perennial flowers are most beneficial – but it’s nice to be able to start things like lettuce and kale early, too.

Being that I have absolutely no space in my tiny house, and that I don’t have any spare cash to buy some grow lights – my backyard will soon begin looking like a sea of two-litre soda bottles and milk jugs. While I’ve been planting five or six bottles of seeds every single day, I’ve still got a LOT of work to do before I’m near finished.

Since it’s still early in the season, my main focus right now revolves around sowing the seeds that are most cold tolerant. Cold tolerance may mean many different things depending upon where you live. Here in zone 6b/7, that means perennial herbs and flowers – as well as some annuals like cabbages, onions, and broccoli.

If you’re interested in winter sowing. I encourage you to check out my YouTube channel, as I’m making a video focused on winter sowing every day this month! I hope that you’re having a great day!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIt0K0L4hdCKr_gD3B0kJvw

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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!

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!

Check out the campaign here:

https://igg.me/p/2194965/twtr/17201187

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! 🙂