Sweet Peas In a Nutshell

Orange Dragon (photo by John Chavez)

At Kings we just love sweet peas mostly because they do a bunch of things. They are reasonably easy, they grow during the cooler months, they can climb or ramble or not, they are very cut-able and they smell wonderful. Here are a few tips on sweet peas so you can have fun and success.

When to plant: As mentioned, Sweet Peas like the weather on the cool side, on the other hand, they need a bit of warmth to germinate and eventually bloom. In Sonoma County you may direct seed into the prepared soil in August, September and October. This gives the plants time to sprout before it gets cold. Normal frosts will not kill the plants. Indeed, during the cool winter, the roots continue to grow providing strength in very early Spring. If you have missed the direct seeding time, you may start them indoors and plant them outside anytime during the Winter and all the way through early Spring.

Location: Full Sun to no less than half a day of full sun.

Germination: Most folks find this pretty easy. In the ground, care should be taken to prepare the soil deeply, to about 12” or more if you are energetic. After working the soil, add MasterNursery Pay Dirt and Master Start and work again. Water so the soil is moist, not soggy and plant the seeds about an inch deep.

Keep evenly moist, but not soggy. Over watering can rot them. Another method would be to prepare the bed early and plant the seeds right when the Winter rains are starting. For indoors we use MasterNursery Potting soil right out of the bag, filling six pack, small pots or greenhouse/flat kits designed for starting seeds. Again the seed is placed about an inch deep and watered several times thoroughly. Then we cover the flat with a layer of newspaper and moisten the paper. After this whole thing stops draining, I bring it inside to a warm cozy spot with some bottom heat if you have it. The top of the refrigerator, back of the stove, nice window. Water thoroughly again when it is dry. There is no need for daily water, only when necessary. Germination can happen as soon as 7 days. Once sprouted, remove the newspaper and put them in a sunny location until a couple of inches high, then outside to a sheltered spot, then into the garden or containers. Some folks soak the seed overnight before planting, we find that this is generally not necessary. However, some seed packets are marked nick before sowing. In this case you can soak the seeds or slightly chip the seed coat with a sharp knife on the opposite side of the seed eye.

Growing: Most sweet peas need a structure. The exceptions are dwarf and knee high varieties, which can be grown with or without support and even in hanging baskets and on the sides of containers of you do not mind the sprawl look. Your structure can be as plain or as fancy as you like, but please make it sturdy and bit bigger than you think that it ought to be. We have used bamboo hoops for smaller varieties, large wigwams of willow or tied together wigwams of bamboo or redwood. Trellis against or tie to fences or wire frames. We have also attached a trellis to a large container with great success. Whatever the method you choose, remember that when the young peas reach out for support, they will need to be gently tied, especially at first and in a timely manner. As the stems age they can become a bit brittle, making the job difficult. We find that once they are started out on the right track they keep on track fine just by themselves. Spacing for new plants should be about 6 to 8 inches apart in your prepared soil. Please remember to work the soil. Your ultimate results are always tied to the soil. Subsequent feeding can be any complete food. We recommend slow release Osmocote or MasterNusery Bud and Bloom. Whichever you choose, please do it. Those nasty snails can be a problem when your plants are young and defenseless. We now have pet-safe snail baits as well as the traditional type, put that out when transplanting.

Other Stuff: Keep the flowers cut. This is important and fun. Sweet peas are cool season annuals and will produce armloads of flowers if you cut the spent ones off as soon as they start to drop petals. This will provide you with non-stop bouquets with room-filling fragrance, and will bloom for weeks and weeks. As the weather warms in Spring, please water your peas consistently as this will also increase length of bloom.

At Kings we carry 30 to 70 different varieties of sweet peas depending upon the time of the year. We have standard varieties such as Winter Elegance and Royals. These are also many times available as plants. Also available are some very old fashioned varieties dating to the 1700’s. These usually have substantially smaller flowers but are wildly fragrant. We also have, and specialize in, English Spencer varieties that have enormous wavy flowers and extra long stems along with fragrance. These are the varieties that are featured at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show. Have fun, plant some of each.

The King’s Rose Garden

‘Midas Touch’, a hybrid tea

The roses are in full bloom!

‘Voodoo’ rose

We are the rose leaders! We only carry premium, grade #1 roses. They are planted, pruned and grown here at King’s-  get the plants, the things you need to plant them, and all the information to go along with it, right here.

Love is a red rose…

If you’re not sure which rose you’re looking for (or not that familiar with roses in general) here are some things to consider:

Location, location, location. Full sun or afternoon sun is best. Pick a spot that gets at least 6 hours a day for best vigor and flowering; any less than that and you may not see much color (and perhaps invite unwanted disease). Simply put, if you have a really shady garden this is not the best plant for you.

Size matters. Ever walked along a sidewalk that’s overgrown with roses? Not a pleasant experience….make sure to be aware of the plant’s expected size at maturity and put it where it can grow to full size. There are all different heights and sizes of roses, so you’re sure to find one that will appeal to you that fits a particular spot.

What’s your type? Choose a rose according to what you most enjoy- do you want to mainly view it in the landscape, will you want to regularly cut bouquets (or both)? Is fragrance important, or just the right color? There are so many types of flowers, in all kinds of colors- pointed, frilly, fully double, classic, open, clusters, single-stemmed. No need to settle!

‘Purple Splash’ climber

You’ll want to give roses regular water, but they don’t require a lot.  Consistent (monthly) fertilizer will keep the flowers coming, as will cutting off the spent blooms every week or two.

Contact us if you need to know anything rose related- we LOVE talking roses! Call us at (707) 542-4782 or come on in; we’re open every day 9-6 (9-5 on Sundays). (more…)

Poop Happens- and It Happens to be Good for Plants

Let’s tell the stinking truth! Poop happens to be good for plants (and if it doesn’t smell, it doesn’t work). We began to believe in this rich garden ingredient decades ago- dark, pungent Paydirt has been used at King’s for generations because, pure and simple, it makes flowers and vegetables thrive. There are lots of ways to enjoy the benefits:

Use it instead of potting soil to top off last season’s planter boxes. Add a layer a 3-6″ inches thick before you plant practically everything- flowers, perennials, broccoli and other edibles. It is much higher in nutrients, the kind that go directly into making your plants grow and take root. When you go to dig, make sure to mix it thoroughly into the existing soil at the root zone. If you’re planting citrus, trees or larger in-ground stuff, mix it 50/50 with the native soil. Good stuff…..

Sprinkle some Paydirt lightly over newly-sown seeds to help them germinate, dissuade birds from eating them. It will also help to ensure even moisture, and discourage weeds so the seedlings get a chance to take hold. Brew up some potent Paydirt tea, let it steep a bit, then pour it on your garden- your plants will take a nutritious drink and LOVE it! Use it to mulch beneath your trees and roses; it’ll keep the weeds out, water in, while delivering a nitro boost of nutrition.

And yes, it does smell. But only for a little while…..

It is a great time, after all, to plant a whole new round of color and foliage. We’ve got loads of Paydirt ready to go, in addition to several other types of soil for various other projects- houseplants, succulents, etc. (plus winter-blooming shrubs and vines, cool season flowers, camellias and just about anything else you can think to plant). Pop by to get inspired- and get the garden rolling!






Got Citrus? We do!

'Eureka' lemon tree loaded with fruit

I’ve been collecting citrus trees in my garden these last few years, and I have to admit I’m hooked!

Along with fresh herbs, citrus fruit has become a staple at my house. I keep a large bowl on the table, with lemons, limes, oranges and the occasional grapefruit inevitably outnumbering the other seasonal offerings. Salads, drinks, cooking and baking can always use some fresh juice or zest, and I absolutely relish a good batch of lemon curd now and then…

You can have all kinds citrus in your garden, too. They’re fairly easy to grow, and there are so many different kinds that do well here. The flowers smell phenomenal, plus the ornamental value is nice- glossy,  evergreen leaves create a lush background for the display of fruit.

Planting in containers is just fine (especially with dwarf varieties, since they only top out between 8-12′). You can even graduate in container size as you go, as long as you end up in something about the size of a 1/2 wine barrel. Use Planting Mix straight from the bag, and mix in a nice starter fertilizer (like Masterstart, Surestart). In-ground plantings get started off right when you add plenty of rich compost into the native soil, along with the aforementioned fertilizer. For happy, productive plants, fertilize pretty regularly with citrus food.

Home grown 'Washington Navel' oranges

We carry lots of citrus all through the year, and we make sure to grow the unusual varieties as well as the favorites. Here are a few of the coolest:

Meyer lemons are the tastiest!

‘Meyer’ lemon- there’s a reason these are so popular;  just one taste will tell you why. Full flavored, with a delightful balance between tart and sweet. Ultra productive, too, with year-round fruiting.

‘Bearrs’ (or persian) lime- I call it the ‘Meyer’ of limes. Bigger, juicier, and more flavorful than the kind you’d find at the store, and I must say, this is the tastiest lime I’ve ever tried. Grows better here than any other lime.

young limes

‘Owari Satsuma’ mandarin- hardy and vigorous, with a bushier appearance than other citrus. Plentiful, snack-sized fruit.

For something different, try a few on the more exotic side:

‘Variegated Pink’ lemon- Make pink lemonade! Clear pink flesh inside of green & yellow striped rind, with nice acidity. The foliage is downright gorgeous, with bold cream-colored splashes and bright pink new leaves.

variegated pink lemon leaves

‘Kieffer’ lime- the leaves are used in Asian cooking, as are the small bumpy limes. Deep purple-red new growth is interesting, too.

Calamondon- this is a striking plant in the landscape, with a compact habit and variegated cream and green leaves. The small fruit has a sweet rind and tart pulp, and you eat it whole like a kumquat.


You can plant any of these (and many more) right now, so come in and see our selection- there’s a lot to choose from!

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