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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Sweet Peas

Sweet peas are among my favorite annuals planted from seed in the fall. Extremely hard winters are a disaster for sweet peas because they depend on winters that are relatively mild. Sweet peas will take a freeze even into the mid-20's, particularly if you mulch them on those few cold nights, but cold winter temperatures can kill plants. If you want to be absolutely certain that an unusually cold winter will not destroy your sweet peas, wait until late December or early January to plant seed.

Adventurous types can plant sweet peas now. In most years, sweet peas planted now will be magnificent in the spring. The best recommendation for growing sweet peas is to find a good location. The best place is on the south side of the house where the plants will get plenty of sun and a little protection from cold winter winds.

Most sweet peas need a trellis but there are also dwarf forms. If you don't have a chain link fence to support sweet peas on-one of the best possible reasons for owning such a monstrosity-you might try growing sweet peas on last summer's tomato cages.

Now, back to the soil preparation! One of the most common recommendations is to dig a trench 24 inches deep and a foot or more wide, placing several inches of manure in the bottom of the trench and then mixing the soil dug out of the trench with an equal amount of compost and at least 1 pound of Superphosphate (0?20?0) per 100 feet of row. That translates to about 1 tablespoon per 2 feet. This trenched area should end up 6 to 8 inches above the surrounding soil to ensure good drainage.

There are several varieties of sweet peas. The early multi-flora variety is readily available on most seed racks and is the best to use for ornamental use since it produces several blooms with short stems in each cluster. If you are interested in using the sweet pea as a cut flower with a long stem, you should plant the Cuthbertson variety.

Getting the seed to come up is another trick. The seed is quite hard and may not germinate if you just plant directly in soil without the next step.

Take a small file and carefully file through the outer seed coat just enough to allow moisture uptake. Then soak the seed overnight in warm water. By morning they should have swelled considerably, telling you that germination will be rapid. Since sweet peas are legumes, they also benefit from inoculation with Rhizobium bacteria. The standard garden-packet type such as nitrogen usually contains a portion of the sweet pea strain of bacterium. Simply dust this material onto the damp seed. There also is a granular form that you can sprinkle along in the planting row. Sweet pea plants are heavy feeders, and sprinkling bone meal, blood meal, or even a commercial fertilizer like 12-24-12 some 6 to 12 inches from the base of the plants through the winter will be important to keep them growing actively.

In the spring, when they begin to bloom, don't hesitate to cut the flowers since the more you cut them the more flowers you can expect to see. As temperatures warm up later in the spring, anticipate powdery mildew and spray at least a couple of times with Ortho Funginex or Greenlight FungAway to prolong their growth. Eventually, hot temperatures will take them out anyway, but you should be able to extend the blooming season with this treatment.

To compliment your sweet peas, you might plant dianthus, pansies or Johnny Jump-Ups (pinks, carnations, etc.) as foreground plants. Other winter annuals such as ornamental kale and cabbage or petunias can also be used.