Sweet Peas

Lathyrus odoratus

By Renee Shepherd

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Plant Particulars
Zones: All, Winter Hardy to zone 5
Height: 6 to 72 inches
Shape: Vine or bush
Bloom Color: Blue, lavender, pink, purple, salmon, maroon, red, rose, white
Bloom time: Late spring through early fall; fall through winter in mild climates
Light needs: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Humus-rich, evenly moist but well-drained, closer to neutral than acid soil

An exquisite fragrance, ruffled blossoms, and a palette of glowing colors (not just pastels!) make sweet peas the most irresistible and memorable of garden flowers. A small bouquet of the fluted beauties perfumes a room with a scent reminiscent of orange blossoms and honey. Sweet peas' soft, seductive fragrance never overpowers or cloys, and isn't replicated in any artificial perfume.

When to Plant:
Mild-winter areas: Sow sweet pea seeds October through early November, or late winter,

 

January to February Moderate-winter areas: Very late winter to early spring, as soon as the ground is workable.

Frigid-winter areas: Late April though mid-May, late mild frosts do not hamper sweet peas.

Planting and Care:
1. Choose the location: Full sun, well-drained soil, reliable air circulation.

2. Sow Seed: Space properly according to seed-packet instructions to prevent disease.

3. Seedling care: When seedlings reach several inches tall, thin them to 5-6 inches apart. When seedlings have three or four sets of leaves, pinch of top set. Protect from slugs and snails using diatomaceous earth or Sluggo.

4. Water regularly: Water germinating seeds, seedlings, and active vines when rain doesn't keep them consistently moist. Mulch to help retain moisture.

5. Fertilize Twice: Add compost or manure to soil before planting. Fertilize twice during growing season with a liquid fertilizer made from a tablespoon each of fish emulsion and liquid kelp diluted in a gallon of water.

6. Thwart insects: Wash off aphids with a blast of water and control thrips with sticky phermone traps.

7. Provide support: Place any vertical support system (strings, netting, wire, wooden fencing, or trellis) wherever you plant the seeds and anchor well.

8. Pick, pick, pick: The more you pick, the more flowers you get, and the longer plants continue blooming before they go to seed.

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