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Think spring while planting in fall

For spring flowers, plant now. Want a lot of fragrant blooms in March and April? Early fall is the perfect time to plant sweet peas. They love a sunny spot but need vertical support for their fast-growing vines. For best results, plant in well-cultivated soil, rich with composted manure.

For maximum sweet pea success, try these tips from Enchanting Sweet Peas ( www.enchantingsweetpeas.com) of Sebastopol:

• Sweet peas can be a bit fickle to germinate. Use clean, fresh seed. Soak seeds overnight in room-temperature water before planting. To hasten germination, any seed not swollen after soaking may be “chipped.” Use a razor blade to chip, or break through, the pea’s skin to give the sprout a little room to break out of its hard seed coat.

• Once the seeds sprout, feed the tender green shoots by spraying them with diluted fertilizer. Foliar feeding of plants with a weak manure tea will make the leaves distasteful to aphids. It also stimulates plant growth and keeps them a healthy green. In particular, guard against aphids, as they may transmit disease to sweet pea plants.

•  Now also is the right time to plant seeds for many other spring flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturium, nigella, poppy and portulaca.

• Put tulips, hyacinth and other spring bulbs in the refrigerator for six weeks of chill time. But keep apples out of the fridge during this process; they can cause the bulbs to rot.

• Set out cool-weather bedding plants including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

• In the vegetable garden, seed bok choy, mustard, spinach, radishes and peas. Plant garlic and onion sets.

Debbie Arrington

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