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How to select and plant the seeds for next spring's sweet peas.

How to select and plant the seeds for next spring's sweet peas

Prolific flower factories, sweet peas now come in a wider-than-ever range of sizes. As alternatives to tall climbers, dwarf selections and intermediate bush types offer many height choices.

Choose the size for the place

Pots, low borders, hanging baskets. Erect and bushy, dwarf types need no staking or training. These include Little Sweethearts (8 inches tall with petite flowers and foliage), Patio (9 inches tall with flower stems just long enough for cutting), and Bijou (12 inches); their flowers come in mixed colors. The littlest sweet pea, Cupid, stays low (4 to 6 inches) and spreads to 18 inches or so; its flowers are bicolored in shades of rose.

Because Snoopea and Supersnoop (15 to 24 inches tall) don't have tendrils, they can't climb; try planting them in hanging baskets. Snoopea comes in scarlet and mixed colors.

Raised beds, tomato cages. Intermediate types such as Jet Set and Knee-Hi reach 18 to 30 inches. Plants tend to flop over as they grow, making them good choices for cascading down the sides of raised beds or from the tops of retaining walls. Several planted around the outside of a tomato cage make a handsome bush. Magnificent for cutting, Jet Set and knee-Hi have large flowers on long, strong stems.

To start and harvest seed

In the low and intermediate deserts, sow seed in late September or October; in mild-winter areas, sow in late September through early January, wait until spring in cold-winter areas.

For quick germination, soak seeds for a few hours, then plant them 2 inches apart and 1 inch deep. When plants reach 4 to 5 inches tall, thin dwarf ones to 6 inches apart, intermediate ones to 12 inches.

When pods dry and turn brown, some gardeners harvest the seeds for next year's plants. For controlled color selection, label blooming plants by color, then bag seeds of each color together.

If you can't find the kinds of sweet peas you want at a nursery, you can order seeds by mail. Three sources, all with free catalogs, are W. Atlee Burpee Co., 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991; Stokes Seeds Inc., Box 548, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240; and Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527.

Photo: Bushy, fall-planted Knee-Hi sweet peas sprawl in a raised bed. Almost 3 feet tall, they provide bundles of pink, red, and white flowers for cutting in spring
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1986
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