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This week, Ken Lain the Mountain Gardener of Watters Garden Center in Prescott, AZ shares how to buy seeds for the garden, how to read seed packets inside and out, and how to plant Sweet Peas from seed.
There is a lot of information on a seed packet. Consider these four things when choosing a variety: when it blooms, how much sun is needed, how big it gets, and then the number of days to harvest. You will find this information listed on the front of our packet right above the description of why you will love this plant.
The back of the packet gives you more specific sowing information. We recommend sowing based on our average last frost date of May 8th. When you’re ready to plant, cut out the build in plant tag and secure it to a garden stake. The label state the number of days before seedlings emerge, how deep to plant, the distance between each, and the recommended thinning instructions. The tags reverse side shows a seedling visual to help identify the plant when emerging.
Freshness – verify the freshness of your seeds. Do not buy seed past its ‘Sell Buy’ date or older than 9 months since last tested for vitality. All plants and seeds sold at Watters Garden Center are organic and never genetically altered.
Average Last Frost Date is May 8th
There’s still more information inside the packet! The inside explains optimal growing conditions, such as how often to water and when to transplant and harvesting methods. We often include the plants’ history, recipes, and tips on keeping cut flowers and fresh vegetables.
Having the right information is the first step in being a successful gardener!
March is the Best Time to Plant my Favorite, Sweet Pea
One of the most romantic of all flowers is undoubtedly the sweet pea, with its delicate butterfly blooms and spicy fragrance of wild honey and orange blossoms.
Famed Scottish gardener, Henry Eckford, developed most varieties launching this annual bloomer into stardom. Sweet peas come in every color from red, lavender to navy blue, some streaked and flecked. Most types trail 5-8′ feet, with shorter forms contained below knee height.
Sweet Peas like the cooler weather of Northern Arizona, making them easy to grow. Sow seed outdoors in March as soon as the soil is workable. Don’t stress if the weather turns cold. The flowers last from spring into summer. A thick layer of Watters Premium Mulch keeps roots cool and extend bloom times well into summer.
Soak your seed in water 24 hours before planting for faster germination. You can also start seedlings indoors in a cool place, six to eight weeks before the last frost date of May 8th. Before transplanting, pinch off any flower buds to encourage roots.
The best location offers full sun with late afternoon shade, rich soil, and good air circulation. Sweet peas scramble up all manner of fences, trellises, and arbors, attaching themselves by slender tendrils. Supports should be small enough in diameter for the tendrils to quickly wrap around.
Sweet peas are used like clematis to trail through landscape shrubs when out of bloom as a beautiful floral combo that spices up dull landscapes. Since sweet peas are annuals, they won’t accumulate a mass of vines from year to year to overwhelm their shrub host. They grow well alongside woody vines to extend bloom times of Wisteria, Trumpet Vine, and 5-leaf Akebia.
They make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers. A handful in a small vase brings their heavenly scent and the romance of the cottage garden indoors. Regularly cutting only encourages more blooms to set.
Watters 59th Spring Open House – consider this a personal invitation:)
We’ve stocked up on fruits, trees, blooming shrubs, and flowers for this year’s event, and brought our growers from the farm to share their knowledge with local gardeners. 2021 gardens can be started now, and we are celebrating all weekend!
Until the next issue, I’ll be helping local gardeners grow the perfect flowers here at Watters Garden Center.
This article was written by Ken Lain. He can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or Top10Plants.com.
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