My cousin, Loretta Aaron, always told me when it came to gardening in the spring: “Don't do anything foolish until April 1, then play it safe for another 10 days.” However she also knew “there are a few seeds that can be planted in February, when the urge to plant sometimes becomes overpowering.”
Here are Loretta's tips on what gardeners can do now.
The annual sweet pea has a lot of Victorian charm. Most gardeners view this plant as difficult to grow. The cause of failure in most cases is planting too late in the season and not understanding the needs of this cool weather vine. Plant seed between Feb. 14 and March 17. Seeds must have chilly nights to germinate well. The best location would be where the plants receive sun until around 1 p.m., then shade in the afternoon.
The secret of success is getting the root system down deep, where the roots will remain cool when the days heat up. Prepare the area well before planting seed. Sweet peas prefer a rich organic soil. Dig a trench about 8 inches deep. Put two inches of composted cattle manure in the bottom of the trench. Then put one inch of soil over the cattle manure. Place seed in the trench and cover with one inch of soil. When the seedlings appear, gradually pull soil into the trench until the area is level with the surrounding soil. By having the root system deep, it will remain cool and the bloom period will extend weeks longer.
Other annual flower seeds that will benefit from sowing now include portulaca (rose moss), alyssum and verbena. You will get much better germination if the seed is exposed to several nights of sub-freezing temperatures. Also, the month of February through around March 20 is the preferred time to set strawberry plants in Oklahoma.
For 21 years, Loretta Aaron, an Oklahoma City gardening expert, was a beloved and well-known gardening columnist for The Oklahoman. Loretta died in 2009. With the permission of Loretta's family, we will reprint some of Loretta's words of gardening wisdom.
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