English peas need an early start

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

Q: I would like to try planting English peas in straw bales. Is this a good idea? — Dan Sullivan, Cumming

A: Straw-bale gardening can be very productive, but it takes at least 10 days to prepare the bale. It probably would take longer in cold weather. This complicates things, since right now is the best time to plant peas. But, there may be a workaround. Start fertilizing and wetting your bale immediately and plant your pea seeds in wide, shallow pots. When the interior of the bale is decomposed and ready for planting, the peas will be a few inches tall. You can transplant them into the bale then. Otherwise, prepare your bale next fall for February pea planting. I have details on straw-bale gardening at bit.ly/GAstrawbale.

Q: Can I divide and transplant monkey grass now or is there a better time for it? — Rita Yeazel, email

A: I have consulted my calendar. Christmas Day seems to be a fine time to transplant monkey grass (liriope), as does the Fourth of July. Groundhog Day is excellent, while Labor Day celebrates the success you'll have with the plant. In fact, I could find no better day than today to move it. The only bad day is yesterday. Wait for a warm afternoon and get to it!

Q: We were advised to fertilize our bulbs as the foliage starts to emerge in the spring. At a nursery, a salesman told me to use blood meal instead of bulb fertilizer. When I looked at the box, it says to apply directly to soil surface and not on top of mulch. What should I use and how? — Marlene Fellows, email

A: I think you'd be better off with the bulb fertilizer. Bulbs need nitrogen and the bulb fertilizer is 4-6-4 while the bone meal is only 1-15-0. The 6 percent phosphorus level in the fertilizer is fine for bulb growth. Both products work best if applied directly to the soil surface. That's where bacteria and fungi can attack the organic ingredients and thereby release the nutrients the bulbs want. If you don't mind using a chemical fertilizer, you could use a water-soluble powdered product now. It doesn't require soil contact.

Q: I live near Augusta and am growing several different fruit plants. I'm looking to plant a fruit you don't normally see in this area. I was thinking of dragon fruit plant or perhaps kiwi. — Robert Hutchinson, Evans

A: Dragon fruit is a type of cactus; I think it's too cold for it where you live. Kiwi is a good choice, but also consider serviceberry or mayhaw. If you really want something interesting, try medlar, loquat or jujube. The University of Georgia has a nice publication on unusual fruits and nuts at bit.ly/minorfruit.