Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Would Mendel Do?

Conducting field trials of peas has never been on my lifetime list of must-do endeavors. In fact, growing peas shows up repeatedly on the "tried-it-and-it-didn't work" list. Yet in the garden one thing leads to another in unpredictable ways.

To start with, this year's pea crop was, by previous standards, a success, meaning we ended up with enough peas at one time to build a meal around them. One cup of Caseload Shelling Peas was harvested and one fabulous dinner of Peas Alfredo was enjoyed.

Then I forgot all about the pea patch until the space was needed for something else. While pulling out the dried up vines I discovered that the plants had made one last desperate effort to leave something for the next generation -- which, from their point of view, is their reason for being. There were several well-rounded pale beige pods with wrinkled seeds inside.

It seemed rude not to collect them. So I did.

When storing the gathered peas I noticed there were still some seeds left in the original packet from Natural Gardening -- larger, more uniform, and shapelier than the ones I saved. This was the parent generation of the plants I had pulled out.

Hmmmm, wouldn't it be interesting to see if one set would do better when planted out? The time was right, the space was available, why not try it?

So I divided a bed down the middle and planted my homegrown Caseload peas on one side (to the left) and the leftover Natural Gardening seeds on the other. The seeds were planted out on September 11.

The Natural Gardening seeds were older, of course, but they had been professionally grown and looked a little better. My seeds were younger and might have an advantage from being more adapted to this particular growing space. Let the trial begin!

The photo above shows the bed on September 26. In general, more of the homegrown seeds came up and appear to be growing faster.

Here's what the bed looked like on October 24. Both sets are growing well, but the homegrown seeds on the left are still ahead.

The tallest plants from the Natural Gardening seeds have cleared the third wire of the support frame. They are nice looking and would count as a success by previous standards.

The plants from homegrown seed have cleared the fourth wire and there are more of them, making a nice lush row such as I have seen and admired in other people's gardens. Criteria for success will have to be adjusted.

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