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Agriculture Today

Time to plant sweet peas

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November 16, 2011 | 2,501 views | Post a comment

Q.Can we grow sweet peas in our area? They are so attractive and fragrant, but I don’t see them in any gardens.

A. Sweet peas are wonderful flowers for winter and early spring bloom, but they are hard to grow here. It is either too hot or too cold.

Grow sweet peas with seed. They are available in a bush form, but the prettiest flowers are produced on the vine form. Sweet peas are available in red, pink, purple, yellow, white, orange, and pastels. The colors remind me of snapdragons.

I begin planting sweet peas in November and replant each month through February until I get a strand that survives whatever hot spells and cold spells that the winter offers. It is a special treat if one of the early plantings prospers to produce blooms until April, but usually the February planting is the one most likely to make it.

Sweet peas need full sun and do best if the soil has been enriched with compost. They are not xeriscape plants and must be watered several times per week. Mulch over the root system is important.

A wire or cyclone fence works well as a trellis and so do tomato cages. A tomato cage placed in a 5- to 10-gallon container makes a good display for sweet peas on the patio.

Q.Why is there so much aphid action in pecans this year? Is it the drought? Everything is covered by “honeydew.”

A. I have not heard any theories and do not have any good ideas. I suppose it is the combination of weather conditions.

Q.What is the trick to getting lettuce seed to germinate? Is it still too hot?

A. No, the weather is perfect. The usual problem is that gardeners cover the seed. It must be laid on the surface of prepared soil in full sun. Water with a gentle stream of spray every day until it germinates.

Q.If we plant Bermuda seed now, will there be enough time for it to become established before winter?

A. No, probably not. It may not ever germinate. It is best to plant Bermuda seed between May and September.

Q.We have access to a large amount of pecan shells. Is it good for anything?

A. Pecan shells are used as fuel in some processes and it is a good mulch. Pecan shells are attractive and easy to rake and shovel as a mulch. It does not decompose quickly. An issue with fresh pecan shells as a mulch is that it attracts deer, fire ants, and birds that seek the remnant of the nuts. It is also not a mulch on which to walk barefooted!

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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