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Garden Plot: Spring forward and tasty garden peas

Friday - 3/8/2013, 1:40pm  ET

Spring forward into spring lawn prep

WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath


Editor's Note:Mike will appear March 15 - 17 at the Fredericksburg Home and Garden Show at the Fredericksburg Expo Center with talks at 2 and 4 p.m. on Friday. He'll speak at 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. on Saturday and at noon and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Mike McGrath,

WASHINGTON - I'm sorry that we all have to lose an hour's sleep this weekend, or go to bed an hour early, but "springing ahead" also means that the season of growing will soon begin. That means pea planting in the McGrath garden!

Now, whether you grow regular English shelling peas or peas that you eat pod and all, such as snow peas and snap peas, it is essential to get them in the ground early so you can get plenty of pea picking time before summer heat burns up the cool-weather loving crops. They're called "June peas" because the vines always burn to a crisp by the Fourth of July.

Next Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, is the traditional pea planting day. It's also supposed to be lucky, but it won't be if you plant the seeds directly in the soil, which is still too cold to germinate those seeds.

Even the smallest plants don't mind cold weather, so pre-sprout your seeds indoors for a few days and then plant them outside. That will give you a huge jump on the season, and up to three extra weeks of pea picking time.

It's easy -- just place the seeds inside some moist paper towels and place the towels inside plastic bags, but don't seal the bags. Just fold them over loosely. Leave them out in the open, like on the kitchen counter, check the seeds daily and plant them in the ground as soon as the little tails poke out. Don't leave them inside the bags after that, or they'll get moldy.

Warm air does not equal warm soil

Don't let this gorgeous weekend weather fool you - the air temperature may hit a blissful 60 degrees, but the soil temperature will still be down in the 40's, which is way too cold to germinate seeds.

But you can put lettuce, spinach, broccoli and other cool-weather loving plants in the ground -- they need it cold, and won't even mind if we get some frost later on.

Most garden centers should have a nice selection of those plants this weekend and cold-weather loving pansies whose flowers are deliciously edible.

Don't spread corn gluten meal on your lawn to feed it and prevent summer crabgrass just yet, but do have your corn gluten in hand for spreading when the soil temperature (four inches down) reaches 55 degrees.

If you don't have a soil thermometer, start spreading that all-natural weed and feed when local redbuds begin to bloom and/or when the water in the Chesapeake Bay reaches 50 degrees or so. It turns out that the water temperature in the bay closely mimics the soil temperature on land. Pretty cool, eh?

This is a great time to move roses

Karen in Catonsville writes, "I have a few rose bushes that only get late morning and afternoon sun, mixed with shade from trees. Should I move them to another area? And if so, when is the best time to transplant them?"

I would absolutely move them to an area that gets morning sun, Karen. Midday sun is fine for some plants, but the ones most prone to disease, like roses, tomatoes and lilacs need morning sun to look their best. And the more sun they get overall, the more flowers they'll produce.

The timing of your question is excellent. You can transplant those roses anytime between now and early June. Just be sure to get them in their new home before summer heat kicks in and you should have good success. Roses are some of the easiest plants to move.

Use a shovel to get them out of the ground with as many of the roots intact as possible. You want to move a big island of soil, not just the plants. Drop them into their new holes, mulch them with an inch of compost on the surface of the soil and give them a long, slow drip-soaking from a hose for several hours afterwards. Don't wet their leaves; just drench the soil. Oh, and if they need pruning, do that at the old location, before moving them.

Lawns under trees are best made of moss

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