The Leaflet Volume 1, Issue 2

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November 2, 2018

Plant sweet peas now for a fragrant spring display

Sweet peas are a lovely addition to your spring flower gardens. Their fragrant smell, vibrant colors, and delicate texture make them great for cutting as well as a standalone display in your garden. If you want a bountiful crop of sweet peas in the spring you need to plant them now. This far south they are considered a cool season plant and will grow throughout the winter and put on a spectacular show in the spring.

Sweet peas will perform best in a sunny location. They need a well-draining soil amended with a slow release fertilizer. Soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. Plant 2-3 seeds ½ inch deep, 6 inches apart. Thin to 6 inches apart when first true leaves appear. Sweet peas need a trellis to climb on so provide them some wire or plant them along a fence or an arbor.

Mulch your sweet peas after you have thinned them. The flowers need to be either cut or deadheaded. Do not let the seed pods begin to form because this will reduce blooming.

You should be able to find sweet pea seeds at your local garden center or the many seed companies available online.

Cool season vegetable issues

We are lucky in the south because we can garden year around! Cool season vegetable gardens suffer less insect and disease pressure than spring gardens but occasionally we do have an issue or two. Downy mildew has been bad this fall in cucumber and squash crops. Downy mildew needs to be treated with fungicides as soon as you recognize it and can be managed with products such as Garden Tech Daconil or Monterey Agri-Fos. If you are unsure about a disease please give me a call and I can help you identify it.

Worms are also an issue in fall crops. Monitor your crops daily and pick off worms if there are only a few. If you need to spray an insecticide, I recommend Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for worm control. Bt only kills worms and will not hurt bees, lady beetles, and other beneficial insects. If Bt isn’t working, then an application of liquid Sevin will do the trick.

Mulch is an important garden staple

Mulch is an often overlooked garden staple. It suppresses weeds, creates a neat appearance, regulates moisture, and moderates soil temperatures. I recommend it more than any other garden practice. Best of all, many types of mulch are free!

Organic mulches are mulches made from once living materials. They have the extra benefit of adding organic matter to the soil as they decay. Organic mulches include: pine straw, pine bark and other wood mulches, newspaper, leaves, hay, and grass clippings.

Inorganic mulches are made from nonliving materials including plastic sheeting, rubber, landscape or weed cloth, and gravel. Inorganic mulches have their place in the landscape, but for most home gardeners, organic mulches are more cost effective, easier to locate, and will do an excellent job at making your garden tasks a little easier.

Deciding which mulch to use depends on many factors. Some mulches are dyed and add an interesting appearance to your landscape. Pine straw, newspaper, leaves, and grass clippings can all be obtained free and are the most economical choice. You know your landscape and resources better than anyone so choosing a mulch material will be your personal decision.

Mulch suppresses weeds by blocking sunlight and preventing weed seeds from germinating. Therefore, it is important to apply mulch thick enough to block sunlight from hitting the soil. Apply mulch 2 inches thick in flower beds and 2-4 inches thick around trees and shrubs.Do not apply mulch liberally against a tree trunk. This creates a volcano effect and will weaken the tree by trapping moisture around the trunk. Pull the mulch away from the trunk and your trees will thank you!

I am sure you have all seen an overgrown vegetable garden where children are afraid to enter and dogs spend their leisure time chasing rodents. My dad used to send me out to pick butter beans and I was afraid I would get lost or eaten in the jungle that was our vegetable garden! Applying mulch down the center of vegetable garden rows and around the vegetable plants will prevent the dreaded vegetable garden forest of weeds.It also reduces the need for herbicides. Additionally, mulch provides a barrier from lawn mowers and weed eaters.

Fertilizer can be applied over mulch into flowerbeds and around trees and shrubs. One tip I like to suggest to homeowners is to apply mulch to your beds before planting. Then dig a hole for your plants through the mulch. This prevents having to carefully spread mulches around delicate bedding plants and may save you a little work.

If you haven’t added mulch to your landscape I highly recommend you try it out. I cannot think of an easier way to prevent weeds, conserve water, and improve your soil health.

Time to move houseplants inside for winter

As temperatures drop and provide a much needed relief from the summer heat, don’t forget those delicate outdoor houseplants that may need to be moved inside for winter. November will bring lows in the 30s and 40s so move your plants inside this month. Monitor them for pests and disease. If you see evidence of a pest or disease isolate the plant and treat it promptly. Houseplants will need less water throughout the winter. Water when the soil feels dry. I have killed more plants by over watering than under watering!

Houseplants and tropicals will not grow very much through the winter so there is no need to fertilize unless you recognize deficiencies.


The Leaflet is a newsletter for horticulturists. It is published three times per year. To subscribe to this publication please email Jessie Hoover at

Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit the LSU AgCenter website.

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