Early spring to do list starts with getting outside

On your to do list this week should be to bait for slugs, plant dahlias, cabbage, radish, spinach, potatoes and other cool season crops, feed asparagus and rhubarb, weed and mulch around shrubs and keep mowing so the dandelion seeds don’t blow about the neighborhood. If a neighbor looks like they need help keeping the lawn maintained ask permission to get more outdoor exercise by practicing your mowing technique on their lawn.

The third week of April and color is bursting out all over – unless it isn’t. Here are the most asked gardening questions about a lack of flowers:

Q. Why is my lilac not blooming? I planted it two years ago and still no flowers.

A. Lilac shrubs may take as long as five years to be mature enough to flower. They also need a sunny site and a cold winter. This is one shrub that does well in an open, windy location. Add a mulch of compost this spring and fertilize when you see the lilac blooms fading in your neighbor’s garden. If your lack luster lilac isn’t flowering next spring, try moving it to a new location or threaten it with the shovel solution. Life is too short to put up with disappointing plants. Use a shovel to dig up the plant and you’ll have room to try something new.

Q. My rose plant has a long branch that looks nice and healthy but this rose was once yellow with big blooms and last summer it flowered very little and only produced a few small red blooms. Why did the rose change color?

A. A hostile takeover has occurred. Your original yellow rose was grafted onto a hardier root stalk and over time the hardy roots can become brazen and bold and send up their own robust branches. This is called a sucker, most likely because one can be suckered into thinking the new branch is going to be a nice addition to the plant. If you don’t dig down and cut the invading rose cane out at the underground source it will win the battle and dominate the entire plant. If little of the original yellow rose remains, it may be time for the shovel solution. Dig it out.

Q. We have a wisteria that has been growing over an arbor for 8 years. We planted it because we admire the hanging and fragrant wisteria blossoms that bloom in our neighbor’s garden. Problem is our wisteria has never bloomed! We have fertilized, watered and have lots of healthy new growth every summer – actually too much new growth that requires us to prune off the longest branches in the summer. Are we pruning too much perhaps? T. Email

A. No, do not blame summer pruning. Wisteria should still flower if you shorten the longest branches each summer. You may be giving your wisteria too much plant food. Wisteria vines flower best when slightly stressed out. Try damaging half the root system by plunging a shovel into the root zone a few feet from the trunk. Do not feed or water your wisteria this summer. Add to its stress level by yelling a few threats as you pass by. If your wisteria isn’t ’t singing “this bud’s for you” by next May, then it may be time for the shovel solution. Cut it down and dig it up. Some wisteria are just born sterile. This is one plant I recommend purchasing at a nursery with flowers already dangling from the vine. This will insure you have a wisteria mature enough and capable of flowering.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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