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Sweet peas bring smiles.

For cut flowers with an old-fashioned fragrance, nothing's more prolific than sweet peas. Plant them in the ground or in big containers: there's a size for every site.

In mild-winter areas, sow seeds outdoors now. In cold-winter areas, sow indoors in late winter to transplant after frosts.

Spring-blooming kinds bloom earliest and longest. For full-size vines, sow Royal (or Floribunda), Early Mammoth (Multiflora or Early Flowering hybrids), or Early Spencer; for medium-height, no-trellisrequired plants with long-stemmed flowers, use Jet Set, Knee-Hi, Snoopea, or Supersnoop. For compact bushes, plant Patio or Bijou. Late Spencer and the summer-flowering kinds start later, and aren't heat-resistant enough outside coolest coastal areas.

For longest bloom inland, use heattolerant Grandifloras such as Old Spice (Old-fashioned Scented Mix) or Little Sweetbeart. Flowers are small, the scent superior. Dwarf kinds are best bets for larger flowers.

Choose a site that gets bright light now and in spring, but-especially inlandavoid hot spots that sear in springsummer sun, such as by paving or southfacing walls.

Sweet peas with deep, cool roots grow best; work soil amendment at least 10 inches deep. For containers, choose big tubs (18 inches or more in diameter) of wood or other insulating material.

Sowing in the ground or presprouting

Water soil thoroughly and soak seeds overnight before planting.

Seeds germinate best in soil about 55 degrees to 65 degrees. If it's colder, presprout them: scatter evenly over a paper towel and cover with another towel; rolllike a diploma, moisten, and put roll in a plastic bag in a warm room. Sow as soon as tiniest sprouts show.

Sow 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart. If possible, avoid watering again until sprouts surface.

Soil should stay moist but never soggy; to discourage mildew, avoid wetting foliage. Bait for snails and slugs, and protect plants from birds with net or wire until about 4 inches tall. Then thin seedlings to 6 inches apart and give climbing varieties support.

In coastal areas, you can use chicken wire for support. Inland, wire may scorch; use net, string, or plastic-covered wire, For the most light and bloom, use a freestanding trellis running north-south; along walls or fences, leave a gap so air circulates. For more bloom at the base on tall kinds, pinch back some side shoots. Don't let seed pods form, or bloom will stop.

Many kinds of sweet peas are sold on seed racks. Two mail sources with wide selections are The Country Garden, Route 2, Box 455A, Crivitz, Wis. 54114 (catalog $1); and Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527 (catalog free).
COPYRIGHT 1989 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Words:427
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