ASK FLORA – Sweet Peas & Strawberries
Sage & Snow Garden Club monthly newsletter - February 2014
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
January 29, 2014
Sweet pea plants and flowers are a regional favorite in Sublette County as are strawberries. Since this is the time of year where we think wistfully about what we might grow next year, Flora thought a few tips might be helpful.
Dear Flora: What is the origin of sweet peas? Signed: Just Wondering
Dear JW: Sweet Peas have been cultivated over 300 years. A monk off the coast of Sicily discovered the first ones. Today the primary source for seeds in the U.S. is the cool, mild and windy coastal area near Lompoc, California. This climate is ideally suited for sweet pea production. England, New Zealand, and Tasmania also produce sweet pea seeds.
Dear Flora: Why do sweet peas grow in Sublette County? Signed: Local Lore
Dear LL: Sweet peas prefer cool weather and definitely do not like it when it is hot. Prepare your planting bed in the fall for best results the next year. They like well-drained deep soil with lots of composted manure. Using a location that has morning sun with afternoon shade is best.
Dear Flora: Is there a best time and method to use when planting sweet pea seeds? Signed: Timing Is Everything
Dear TIE: Folklore says to plant sweet peas on Good Friday, although if the ground is too frozen, the next "good" Friday will do. Seeds should either be soaked overnight or nicked with fingernail clippers to allow for better germination. They can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost, but do not like to be disturbed during transplanting. Use pots that are biodegradable to minimize the shock.
Dear Flora: What else do I need to do besides plant the seeds? Signed: Kinda Busy
Dear KB: Once seedlings emerge, thin to 5-6" apart and pinch tops once there are 3-4 sets of leaves. This will encourage branching. Mulch to keep the roots cool. Pick flowers early and often beginning when the lowest bloom on the stem is just opening.
Dear Flora: I love strawberries and would like to grow them myself. How do I get started? Signed Strawberry Fan
Dear SF: Strawberries prefer a raised bed in a sunny location. Use separate beds for June bearing vs. ever bearing plants. Beds should be prepared in the fall and planted in the spring. Acidity soil is preferred so amendments will be necessary because most soil around Sublette County is alkaline. Conifer needles and coffee grinds are two readily available materials.
Dear Flora: How can I make my strawberries last longer? Signed: Berry With Me
Dear BWM: Pick ripe fruit in the morning being sure to leave the green crown intact. Immediately place them in the refrigerator, but do not wash them until you are ready to eat them.
Dear Flora: I find that the critters in my yard often beat me to the best fruit. What can I do? Signed: Too Slow
Dear SL: Netting is widely available for just such problems. Check your local nursery or online gardening suppliers for options.
Dear Flora: I’ve tried to grow strawberries in the past, but they only last for one year. What am I doing wrong? Signed: Strawberry Challenged
Dear SC: There are some actions you can take to make your strawberries heartier. Clip off runners and remove flowers the first year to drive growth to the root system and make it stronger for the future. Once the bed is established you can start baby plants by letting 3-5 runners per plant grow and stake them to the ground to allow rooting. Fertilize in the fall, as this is the time the plant sets buds for the next year’s fruit. After the frost, mow the plants off and mulch heavily. Securing a cover over the mulch keeps it in place throughout the winter. Moving beds every 4-5 years is recommended as well.
Dear Flora: How can I get involved with other gardeners in the region to share ideas and learn? Signed, Gnu Gardener
Dear GG: One way is to attend a Sage & Snow Garden Club meeting. We meet from 5:00 p.m.to 7:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the Sublette County Weed & Pest Office at 12 South Bench Road, Pinedale. The educational topic for February18this "Essential Oils and Lotions." To find out more about the Garden Club & read all Ask Flora articles, visit our website at www.sageandsnow.org. You can also call the club president, Jeanne (307-367-4211).