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Learn To Grow Sweetly-Scented Sweet Peas In Your Window Box

Purple and pink sweet pea blossoms on slender green stems.
Sweet peas add color and scent to your window boxes and gardens. You can fill a vase with them as cut flowers for a springtime centerpiece.

Some flower varieties just seem to elicit a smile on your face just by looking at them. One such posie is the lovely sweet pea, with the flower bud's cheery appearance, beautiful hues and lovely scent!

Planting them is easy, when you know a couple of helpful tips. And you can start seeds indoors this month, then transplant and grow in a flower garden, raised bed or window box to use in fresh sweet pea bouquets for the table.

Find heirloom, fragrant varieties with names like "Miss Willmott," "America" and "Cupani." There is also a smaller window-box-sized variety, called, "Cupid," and even a perennial sweet pea.

Sweet peas are a quintessential spring flower and an English cottage garden staple. Better yet, they are very happy in Vermont’s climate! Most varieties will grow up to five feet tall so do make sure you have a sturdy trellis or fence for the sweet peas to climb.

To ensure sweet pea success, follow these planting tips that involve timing and prepping the seeds. 

As for timing, you'll want to plant your sweet peas at the same time as you plant your garden peas. They enjoy the cooler temps at first! The sweet peas will want to be in full sun and well-drained soil.

To prepare the seeds for planting, first scar the seeds and let them soak in warm water overnight.

Scoring them is simple; you'll just take a nail file and scrape the outer waxy coating of the seeds, then place them in water overnight. Scraping the seeds in this way actually helps them germinate faster.

And you can start your sweet peas indoors, too, using the same process. When they’ve grown six to eight inches, replant them outdoors. Pinch the tops for bushier, fuller plants.

Harvest sweet pea flowers in the morning for best fragrance. And if you love sweet peas and want to bypass the yearly replant, there is a perennial version, but that variety has no fragrance.

And an important note: Sweet peas are not edible. In fact they are poisonous, so don’t eat them!

Q: Which seeds are better to start inside as transplants, directly sow, or both? We've purchased seeds for various greens, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, butternut squash. Also, how early should you start your transplants before the last frost date? — Allison in Hyde Park

April is the month to plant seeds indoors! Here’s a quick guide on what to plant when, if you're starting seeds indoors to transplant them later in May and June:

In early April, plant peppers and eggplants. In the second week of April, start your tomatoes. Towards April’s end, sow pumpkin and squash seeds. This way, you're putting a transplant out into the garden around Memorial Day.

Also, you can start cool season veggies - like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts - indoors now then move the transplants in early May. 

Then around Memorial Day, when your seedlings have grown indoors, move the transplants out to your garden or raised bed.

When it comes to starting cilantro and beans, you can sow those seeds directly into the ground.

Q: How do I deal with brown scale on anthurium? I have tried washing them off with soap, hand-washing each leaf. I also tried an organic plant spray but the scale always returns with a vengeance! — Ralph, in East Wenatchee, Washington

Scale is a tough one to get rid of on a house plant. Once it's established, it is hard to remove. You can use your finger and flick off the scales or try rubbing alcohol on the scale.

Also, horticultural oil or neem oil can help. Alternately, you can remove a bunch of affected stems, as anthurium are fairly sturdy. Perhaps that will help keep the scale from starting on the new growth.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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