Tag Archives: growing sweet peas

Sweet Pea plants growing on a willow garden screen

Air-pruning plant pot experiment – UPDATE

Growing plants in air-pruning plant pots was a new experience for me this year so I have been watching and learning from my Sweet Peas as they have gradually progressed.

My air-pruning experiment: the project progress

My six upcycled air-pruning plant pots now complete with their newly sown Sweet Pea seeds
My six upcycled air-pruning plant pots now complete with their newly sown Sweet Pea seeds

It seems a long time since mid-April when I sowed the Sweet Pea seeds in their cosy grow bags inside my upcycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots. The seeds quickly germinated and the Sweet Pea plants were soon on their way.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

When I put them outside in the middle of May, the plants only just reached up far enough out of their pots for me to encourage the shoots to set off on their journey up the jute and willow garden screen that I had specially constructed for this purpose.

By the end of July the plants were grown to their full height (1.8 metres/6 feet) and the first flowers appeared … pink, followed by white and then a deep maroon.

Pink, White, Maroon - Sweet Peas on the willow screen
Pink, White, Maroon – Sweet Peas flowering on the willow garden screen

My air-pruning experience: thoughts and observations

Whilst generally I am very pleased with my air-pruning experience during this Spring and Summer, I have encountered a couple of problems with my gardening experiment that I thought I’d talk a bit about in this post.

Air-pruning plant pots in the microclimate behind the wall
My air-pruning plant pots in the cooler, damper micro-climate behind the wall

I set three pots of plants to grow from behind my small yard wall (approx. 90cm/3 feet high) and three pots of plants to grow up over my yard gate, which is around the same height. Although these two areas are only inches apart, they have very different micro-climates.

The small area behind the brick wall is fairly dark and damp because it is immediately adjacent to our refuse and recycling bins. I had also previously planted my new Willow cuttings in their pots in this corner of the yard and, as they had grown on a little, they affected the light level too. The combination of these elements means this part of the yard tends to stay cooler with no direct sun.

As I'd anticipated the Sweet Pea plants are mainly growing on the outside of my backyard garden screen
As I’d anticipated the Sweet Pea plants are mainly growing on the outside of my backyard garden screen

The wooden planked gate forms the boundary to the other half of the yard. With the open yard area immediately inside the gate, this half of the yard has more air movement, plus the warmth of the sun soon warms up the wooden gate.

In the cooler, damper conditions behind the wall, it wasn’t long before the snails showed up! When I say ‘showed up’, it was mainly a case of ‘left a trail’ … not only of glistening slime, but also of half-chewed leaves – though only on one particular Sweet Pea plant. Why only one plant, I can’t be certain – but I was pleased to see at least it wasn’t all three!

Snail in Sweet Pea grow bag
Spot the snail snuggled into the Sweet Pea grow bag!

One day I managed to catch up with my plant-munching visitor as it snuggled down into the evidently-too-cosy grow bag! Have you ever found yourself addressing a mollusc?! I must say, I took pity on the poor starving creature who was, of course, merely seeking an evening meal and a bed for the night! I did however remove it from the Sweet Pea pot and found it a new home elsewhere!

Moody mollusc - my snail visitor
Moody Mollusc peering disgruntledly from under its shell

There was one other aspect of my Sweet Pea air-pruning plant pot experiment that I have could have been happier with and that relates to the size of the pots I chose to use. If you have grown Sweet Peas before, you will know they normally prefer to grow in quite deep soil. However, I had previously grown them successfully in a pot that was not much deeper than the air-pruning plant pots I was using this year, so that was why I had decided it was worth the experiment.

The problem I encountered was this: as the plants grew taller, the lower leaves quickly yellowed, despite regular watering and feeding. I took a close look at the root systems as far as I could observe them from the outside of the pots. The roots had grown well and exactly as expected in the air-pruning plant pots. There were only the tips of roots showing inside the closed-in areas of the pots. Where the fabric grow-bag was open to the air, the roots had not penetrated the grow-bag. I will be taking an even closer look at how the root systems have developed when the plants are finished flowering and I take them down.

Visible root growth in air pruning plant pot
Root growth in one of the air-pruning plant pots on the wooden gate
Roots in air pruning plant pots
Roots in the air pruning plant pots behind the wall

The plants have reached their full height and flowered, but the yellowing of the leaves has somewhat spoiled their overall appearance on the willow screen. I definitely feel the Sweet Pea plants needed larger pots with a greater quantity of compost to supply them with sufficient nutrients and water. (Apologies for the slightly blurred image below – we had windy weather in August and it was impossible to find a time when the light and the weather allowed for better photo shooting!)

Yellowing foliage on my Sweet Peas
My Sweet Peas at the end of August – flowers but also yellowing foliage

I was very pleased that the Sweet Pea plants grew to their full height, though on hindsight, given the plant pot size I had used, I would probably have been better managing the growth differently. I nipped out the main growing tips when the plants reached the top of the screen, but if I had done this a little earlier and kept the plants a little shorter, I think perhaps the issue with the dying foliage may not have been so bad.

The size of the pots has definitely been an issue I’d rethink for another time. I need either larger pots for Sweet Peas or perhaps I need to choose a smaller growing plant. Another idea I had intended for some of the Sweet Pea plants was to plant them into a wooden plant trough. But, as so often happens, time simply ran out for that idea this year. However, I may contemplate creating some troughs in either wood or woven willow for next year so I shall add it to my Winter projects list!

J Peggy Taylor

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Pink Sweet Peas on willow garden screen

Air-pruning plant pot success! My Sweet Peas are flowering!

When I sowed my Sweet Peas in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots, way back in April this year, I wasn’t sure how well my plants would grow. I’d never experimented with air-pruning plant pots before so this was a whole new experience for me.

Despite being in somewhat smaller pots than would normally be used, the Sweet Pea plants I’d hung on my yard gate have still grown to their full height – the fully grown plants are now 175cm (69″) tall. The Sweet Peas are supported on one of the willow and jute garden screens I’d designed and created for this purpose. This project was part of my idea to expand the growing space in my back yard by vertical gardening.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the young Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

I have been watching closely as the flowers have been developing on the Sweet Peas. This week I am very happy to report that my first of my Sweet Pea plants has revealed its first beautiful pink blooms 🙂

The first buds appearing on the Sweet Peas
The first buds appearing on the Sweet Peas
Flower buds bursting on the Sweet Peas
Flower buds bursting on the Sweet Peas
The first Sweet Pea flower gradually unfurls its pink petals
The first Sweet Pea flower gradually unfurls its pink petals
Pink Sweet Pea flowers in full bloom lit up by the evening sun
Pink Sweet Pea flowers in full bloom lit up by the evening sun

Looking at the other plants along the yard gate that are now budding, we have some creamy white flowers and some deep crimson flowers, so with the pink flowers too, that’s going to be a lovely range of colours growing together.

J Peggy Taylor

Sweet Pea plants growing on a willow garden screen

Planting in air-pruning plant pots – Sweet Pea progress

As this is the first time I have tried planting in air-pruning plant pots, I’ve been watching my Sweet Peas very closely over the past seven weeks to see how they get along in my recycled milk carton plant pots with their cosy little made-to-measure fabric grow bags. I must say, I am quietly pleased with their progress.

The first Sweet Pea seedling
The first Sweet Pea seedling

I sowed the Sweet Pea seeds in mid-April – two per pot – and I was delighted to see the first seedlings germinate just five days later. Gradually over the next few days each of the seeds prodded its little green shoot through the compost.

Sweet Pea seedlings - the second one appears
Sweet Pea seedlings – the second one appears

After two weeks my Sweet Pea seedlings were all growing on well. I wanted to give the seedlings time to grow large enough to enable me to thread them onto the jute and willow garden screens I was creating as plant supports. So, for a little longer the seedlings resided on a specially-created plant shelf in an east-facing window – giving them plenty of light without too much strong sun.

All of my Sweet Pea seedlings are doing well in their air-pruning plant pots
All of my Sweet Pea seedlings are doing well in their air-pruning plant pots

In mid-May, a month after sowing, my growing Sweet Pea plants were ready for their outdoor adventure. I chose this particular time as we were enjoying a little burst of early Summer, so I knew the plants would be fine outdoors. I attached the air-pruning plant pots to the jute and willow garden screen – I’d designed the plant pots with this in mind. Now that the Sweet Pea plants were safely outdoors I gave them a good watering and added some of my ‘magic growing potion’ to give them a good start.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

Over the last few weeks I’ve been watching over my little Sweet Pea plants. I spotted a suspicious-looking snail on a plant pot one morning so transported it to another location, far-removed from my Sweet Peas! I’ve also been regularly pinching out the side shoots that grow quite prolifically on Sweet Peas. Side shoots will be wonderful later when the plants have fully grown and are ready to flower, but for now they are taking up energy that I’d prefer to see grow into the main plant stem.

My only exception to this lately, is with one of the plants that seems to have acquired its own sneaky slimy friend! As various parts of that plant have been eaten already, I’ve decided to let nature take its course and see whether any of the evidently-too-tasty shoots actually survive!

Some visible roots in the air-pruning plant potsome visible roots in the air-pruning plant pots

There are some visible roots inside the air-pruning plant pot
There are some visible roots inside the air-pruning plant pot

Today, I also took a closer look at how the roots are progressing in their air-pruning plant pots. There is some evidence of root growth inside the remaining plastic parts of the milk carton, though none to see where the grow bag is exposed to the air through the large holes. Using air-pruning plant pots is a new experiment for me, so I am observing how plant growth is impacted with this method of growing.

I noticed there were more visible roots in the base of the air-pruning plant pot
I noticed there were more visible roots in the base of the air-pruning plant pot

The Sweet Pea plants are certainly growing on well – I think they seem to grow perceptibly each day. This morning, as I checked the plants growing on the willow screen on my backyard gate, I see they have now reached about half way up. The plants measured 24 inches high (that’s about 60 cms)!

The Sweet Pea plants on the gate have reached halfway up the willow screen now
The Sweet Pea plants on the gate have reached halfway up the willow screen now
As I'd anticipated the Sweet Pea plants are mainly growing on the outside of my backyard garden screen
As I’d anticipated the Sweet Pea plants are mainly growing on the outside of my backyard garden screen
This rather sinister-looking liquid is my 'magic potion' plant food.
This rather sinister-looking liquid is my ‘magic potion’ plant food. (Another recycled milk carton there 😉 )

There’s more heavy rain forecast for tomorrow. After that I shall feed the Sweet Peas some more ‘magic potion’. I shall make this year’s batch of new ‘potion’ soon and then I’ll share the secret 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Crochet jute and willow garden screen - crochet close-up

The crochet jute and willow garden screen – completed!

The crochet jute and willow garden screen that I have been creating as a support for my Sweet Pea plants is now complete.

The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen - ready to fix in place
The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen – ready to fix in place

This second part of the willow screen I have made just like the first one, using two rows of crochet green jute yarn to bind the willow rods together.

I needed to make this part of the willow screen a bit shorter than the first one because this one is to go on the back of my yard gate. I wasn’t too sure how this part of the garden screen was going to work out when I came to fix the screen in situ. This part of the experiment was going to be interesting … discovering whether my plan would go exactly according to plan!

My wood-crafting son helped me out with the hand-hewn batten I wanted, to hold the willow screen for the gate in place. The batten is made from a short length of sycamore branch that we happened to have lying around. After sawing it to length, we removed the bark and my son deftly axed it into shape so that it could be easily screwed onto the back of the gate. I love the smooth, pale grain of sycamore. Next, I pre-drilled holes in the appropriate places after I’d checked precisely where the batten was going to fit onto the gate and I partly inserted the screws ready to attach it.

To fix this second piece of my willow garden screen in place, I first tacked the lower row of jute crochet to the top of the gate using small fencing staples. I then loosely attached the batten at each end whilst I reorganised some of the willow rods that I found had slipped out of place.

Attaching the willow screen to the gate with staples and a hand-hewn batten
The willow screen is held in place by fencing staples and the hand-hewn sycamore batten

When I was happy with the position of the basic frame, I then began weaving some thinner willow rods across the garden screen. I worked in a random fashion, just as I had done with the first part of the screen. I was aiming for the garden screen to still allow a lot of light through it so that the light would continue to reach the numerous other trees and plants in my yard. Even though the willow weavers are very thin, they do provide a reasonably sturdy structure on which my Sweet Pea plants can grow.

I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion
I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion

I made sure there was a slightly stouter rod at each end of the willow screen to provide stability. I had wondered about the overall stability of the willow screen in windy conditions, as I mentioned in a previous post on this project, but the first part of my garden screen has been in place for a couple of weeks now and has survived some moderate winds … so far so good!

The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen
The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen

Now it was time to attach the air-pruning plant pots with their cargoes of Sweet Pea plants onto the willow garden screen. I had experimented with one plant pot a couple of days ago on the first part of the willow screen and my design plan seems to be holding up well, so I set to work attaching the other five plant pots.

As I had anticipated, the handles of my upcycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots came in very useful at this stage. I tied the plant pots firmly in place, making sure they couldn’t slip out of position as this could potentially damage the growing plants.

For the three plant pots near my wall, I used the string loop I’d added to each plant pot for this purpose. I’d initially thought I might just stand the Sweet Pea plant pots on top of the plant buckets into which I’d inserted the willow rods of the garden screen, along behind my yard wall. But some tell-tale slug trails nearby suggested it may be a good idea to tie the pots a little higher – hopefully out of temptation’s way! The recent experience of slugs and Soapwort is still fresh in my mind!

I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall
I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall

To secure the Sweet Pea plant pots to the back of my gate, I decided to use my new firmly fixed sycamore batten. Again I made use of the handles of the recycled milk carton plant pots when attaching the string.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

When I had all of the Sweet Pea plant pots in place, my final task was to carefully arrange the growing plants, weaving the stems in and out of the willow screen where I am hoping they will continue to grow and flourish. Perhaps before too much longer I will be able to post about my first Sweet Pea flowers – I do hope so!

J Peggy Taylor

My crochet jute and willow rod garden screen fixed in place with a hazel strengthening rod

Crochet jute and willow garden screen: project update

In recent weeks I have been creating a crochet jute and willow garden screen on which to train my rapidly developing Sweet Pea plants (in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots that I’ve been sharing with you lately). This garden screen project is part of a bigger plan I have to make more use of vertical space in my very small back yard.

In a previous post I was showing you the initial framework for the larger of the two pieces of garden screen I am in the process of constructing. This crochet jute and willow rod garden screen is very much an experiment-in-progress as I ponder and deliberate on how to approach the next stage.

This week I took the chance of a particularly warm and sunny afternoon to begin the task of setting up the completed first section of the willow garden screen. I think the sunshine was beginning to make me impatient to see how the next stage of this project would work out!

I inserted the butts of the willow rods into the plant buckets in my yard
I inserted the butts of the willow rods into the plant buckets in my yard

My initial plan had been to create a made-to-measure trough from small logs in which to ‘plant’ the base of this section of the garden screen. However, since I have not yet found time to construct the wooden trough, I decided to simply ‘plant’ the upright rods of the willow screen into the plant buckets I already have in situ in that area of my back yard. These buckets are currently taking good care of some willow cuttings that I took earlier in the year.

In its preliminary stage of construction my large section of willow screen was easily gathered up into a bundle … deliberately, so it was possible to manoeuvre it into my back yard! I’d taken care to measure the space I had available to fill and I am pleased to say the jute crochet allowed the willow rods to stretch out just enough to fill it exactly. I carefully pushed the butts of some of the thicker willow rods into place, deep into the plant buckets. And … Hey Presto! … my crochet jute and willow garden screen stood proudly in its new place!

My willow garden screen standing upright in place in my back yard
My willow garden screen standing upright in place in my back yard

I was pleased to notice that the height at which I’d trimmed off the willow rods made the screen just the height I was hoping to achieve in relation to my neighbour’s fence. It might have been fun to have the tallest fence in the neighbourhood, but perhaps not if I wanted it to remain stable as a plant support 😉

The next job was to begin weaving in the much thinner willow rods across the garden screen to create an open lattice-work around which the Sweet Peas could wind their tendrils. I worked the thin weavers through between the rods, very much in a random fashion, as I had planned. My intention was to still allow as much light as possible to reach my yard, especially for the benefit of my other plants.

My finished willow garden screen just matches the height of my neighbour's fence
My finished willow garden screen just matches the height of my neighbour’s fence

When I had finished weaving the thin weavers into the main framework of the willow screen I found the screen was already quite stable. However, I decided to add some strengthening rods at either end of the screen, as my son had suggested, to give even more stability in the windy weather we often experience here on our northern hillside. The hazel strengthening rod is simply tied onto the end of the crochet jute and willow construction with string and also held in place by a fencing staple in the top of the gatepost.

It was very pleasant working outdoors in the Spring sunshine and I must say I was very satisfied with my willow screen handiwork. Now I need to work on the other section of my willow garden screen and that will fit across the back of my yard gate … hopefully!

J Peggy Taylor

My six upcycled air-pruning plant pots now complete with their newly sown Sweet Pea seeds

Sowing and growing in upcycled air-pruning plant pots

My air-pruning plant pot project is continuing to make good progress. In my last post I’d added some upcycled fabric grow-bags to the upcycled plant pots I’d created from milk cartons. The next stage was to fill my now-fully-prepared air-pruning plant pots with compost and sow my Sweet Pea seeds.

I discovered the cut-off piece of the milk carton made a very useful sized scoop when filling my air-pruning plant pot with compost
I discovered the cut-off piece of the milk carton made a very useful sized scoop when filling my air-pruning plant pot with compost
In the process of making my milk carton plant pots I’d cut off a scoop shape from the top of each carton. I discovered one of these mini plastic scoops made an ideal assistant for filling the plant pots with compost. I filled the pots quite close to the top with compost but left enough space to accommodate sufficient watering.

I generally plant seeds into ready-watered compost, so the next job was to carefully water the compost in the fabric grow-bag. As I was adding the water, I was also watching to see how the water soaked through the compost and out into the fabric grow-bag. When I’d prepared the air-pruning plant pots I hadn’t made drainage holes in the base of the pots as I felt there was plenty of opportunity for evaporation through the sides of these smaller-sized air-pruning pots. I’d left about 2.5cm /1 inch intact around the bottom of the plant pots too, to catch the water if I did happen to water them too enthusiastically!

I left the bases of the milk cartons intact so that they would catch any extra water whenever I watered the Sweet Pea seedlings
I left the bases of the milk cartons intact so that they would catch any extra water whenever I watered the Sweet Pea seedlings

Now it was time to sow the Sweet Pea seeds. Sweet Pea seeds are quite large, as seeds go, so for this task I used my ‘old pen’ dibber to make the holes in the compost about 1.5cm / half inch deep. I decided to sow two Sweet Peas in each pot. Then after sowing the seeds I used the dibber to cover them over with compost before adding a final drop of water to help the seeds on their way.

Making the planting holes with my 'old pen' dibber for my Sweet Pea seeds
Making the planting holes with my ‘old pen’ dibber for my Sweet Pea seeds

And that was the seed-sowing done. The only remaining task I had was finding a suitable indoor home for my plant pots … time to build a new shelf …

All of my Sweet Pea seedlings are doing well in their air-pruning plant pots
All of my Sweet Pea seedlings are doing well in their air-pruning plant pots

I’m pleased to say that all of the Sweet Peas have now germinated and the seedlings are looking healthy.

Now I must get working on completing my crochet jute and willow garden screens ready to support the Sweet Pea plants in my back yard … hopefully I’ll be posting more on that very soon.

J Peggy Taylor

Materials for crochet jute and willow rod garden screen

Crocheting a willow garden screen – part 2

I have made good progess this week with the willow garden screen project that I talked about in a previous post. The first section of this crochet jute and willow rod screen is now complete.

Measuring the width of the willow screen
Measuring the width of the willow screen

I have used two rows of crochet jute as the main binding to hold the screen together. I’m planning on adding some additional materials when I fix the screen into its required position. These will be woven into the main jute and willow framework. I have some interesting pieces of Scots Pine cuttings and some thinner willow weavings that I will use to add some interest and texture to the screen whilst I’m waiting for my Sweet Pea plants to grow.

Two rows of jute crochet bind the willow rods in place
Two rows of jute crochet bind the willow rods in place

This is the complete framework of the larger willow screen
This is the complete framework of the larger willow screen – the doorway behind shows the scale
I have designed the willow screen so that it has plenty of spaces for light and air to pass through it. One of my sons raised the issue of stability in the stronger winds we are experiencing in recent years. I am hopeful that the flexibility of the willow will be beneficial in this regard but I have also considered adding some hazel rods to assist with stability, particularly perhaps as the Sweet Pea plants grow larger. This crochet and willow garden screen project is very much an experiment-in-progress so I shall be learning from the ongoing experience.

This week I have discovered another new and exciting experiment to add further interest to my jute and willow screen project. It is a new-to-me concept that certainly appears to improve the growth of all kinds of plants from pine trees to sweetcorn! I will be trialling this new idea for my Sweet Peas plants and hope it will help them produce a bumper crop of flowers. You can expect to hear more about this plant magic very soon!

J Peggy Taylor

Materials for crochet jute and willow rod garden screen

Crocheting a willow garden screen for my back yard

To grow even more things in my very small back yard I am now looking at vertical gardening to expand my growing space. I have seen some interesting versions of planting in vertical space but I’ve decided to go for my own personal twist on this concept.

One of the first problems I needed to solve is that I want to be able to take advantage of some vertical space that at present is completely open, above a small brick wall and a low-level gate. I’m not looking to create a permanent feature as I want to see how using this vertical space will impact on light levels for other plants I have growing in the yard.

Willow cuttings behind the wall
The willow cuttings standing behind the wall where I intend to stand the narrow trough
I am keen to keep the screen structure quite natural-looking and not overly dense to allow light through as well as incorporating natural materials. At present I am designing two jute and willow screens which combine crochet and some simple willow weaving.

My idea is to attach one screen to extend above the current height of the gate using hand-hewn wooden slats. The other screen will be taller, at approximately 1.8 metres, and will be planted into a narrow slatted wooden trough (also yet to be constructed!) that will extend along behind the low brick wall. The initial idea is not for the willow rods to actually root in the trough though it is possible this may happen if the rods are still green when I set up the screen. (I already have a few pots of willow growing from cuttings I took a couple of months ago.)

… and what will I grow here? I’d pondered on beans or peas but, as this is a roadside and the plants will mainly be growing on the outside of my yard, I’m not keen on that idea. I’ve decided to try for a good showing of sweet peas. I love these flowers, especially the old fashioned scented ones.

Crocheting the willow rods together
Crocheting the willow rods together

So far I have begun to crochet the willow rods together and I really like the way it looks … I will report back as I make further progress 🙂

J Peggy Taylor