The middle of February is time for early bird gardeners to start peas.
Sweet peas and garden peas should be pre-sprouted by soaking them overnight in warm water. In the morning spread the pea seeds on a cookie sheet between layers of damp paper towels. When the seeds sprout you can bury them in well-drained soil following the instructions on the seed pack.
It is still too early to plant other cool-season crops such as lettuce unless you have a hoop house or cold frame that protects new seedlings from the weather.
Slugs and snails will be emerging from winter slumber this week so be sure to protect any new seedlings or primroses you set out into the garden.
Here’s a reader question about hydrangeas.
Q. I have a hydrangea shrub that blooms beautifully in the summer with balls of blue flowers. Unfortunately it has grown too large for the spot next to the house where it is thriving. Can I prune my hydrangea back now for a more compact plant this summer? R.P., Tacoma
A. The easy answer is no. Huge hydrangeas cannot be kept dwarf and compact by pruning. Hard pruning can prevent flowers the following summer.
The better solution is to transplant that hydrangea this spring to a spot where it can spread out its branches and bloom year after year with no pruning required.
There are new hydrangea hybrids that are more compact (look for the Cityline series such as “Rio”) and also hydrangeas such as the “Endless Summer” varieties that flower on both old and new wood so they can handle a haircut every spring.
Better to move a shrub to a new location than to fight Mother Nature and control the size of a woody plant determined to spread and grow. Early spring is a good time to snip off the faded blooms of last year’s hydrangea flowers and to thin out any wayward or broken branches.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.