Get growing this week and keep mowing as new growth explodes. Fertilizing roses, annuals, perennials and vegetables is the important task for these heavy feeders if you have not yet done so. In general you should not need to add extra fertilizer around trees and shrubs. Plants with a good root system can find their own nutrients. Overfeeding evergreens, shrubs and trees can cause a flush of soft and succulent new growth and this attracts aphids and encourages disease.
Roses are among the biggest gluttons in the plant world so add compost as a mulch, add granular or liquid plant food and also slow-release fertilizers.
Continue to plant cool-season vegetables like lettuce, kale, peas and cabbage; also, most annual flowers and bedding plants can go into the ground this week. Think twice about planting warmth-loving plants like tomatoes, geraniums, marigolds and coleus even though we are into the month of May. The very wet spring has caused the ground to warm up more slowly. These warmth-loving plants will do fine in containers with potting soil – it is the cold wet ground that will still be a challenge for heat-loving plants.
Q. My rose plants have green bugs and some orange tiny bugs that I think are aphid. Do aphids come in an orange color? What should I use to spray if I am an organic gardener? K.B., Bellevue
A. Aphids do come in many colors and there are specific aphid that like certain plants. (Black aphid seem to prefer nasturtiums.) Before you think about spraying a pesticide use your pinching fingers to squeeze the soft bodied aphid and leave their mangled bodies on the roses. This can attract ladybugs to your garden in much the same way crows are attracted to road kill. You may need to check and squish for a few weeks to get a serious aphid outbreak under control. Look for ladybugs and their crocodile-shaped larvae before you squish.
Q. I see you will be speaking about helping our bees and other pollinators at the Backyard Wildlife Festival in Tukwilla. I cannot attend the talk. Please give me the name of that special plant that feeds the Monarch butterfly. J.H., Olympia
A. Gardeners can help save the Monarch butterfly by adding milkweed or butterfly weed to their gardens. The Perennial Plant Association has named butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) the plant of the year for 2017 so it will be readily available at nurseries. It has lovely orange flowers and the foliage is hairy, making it not only attractive for Monarch butterflies in their search for someplace to deposit eggs but also a low-maintenance and disease-resistant plant.
A new book titled “The Monarch – Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly” by Kylee Baumle explains more about planting for Monarchs and other pollinators. This book is easy to read with gorgeous photos on every page and at $18.95 a pretty reasonable price to pay if you want to help save the world. Especially unique is the information on how to tag monarchs, raise them in your home and attract them to your garden as a way station when they make their annual butterfly migration.
Q. What would you say are the easiest vegetables to grow? We moved to a house with a vegetable plot all ready to plant. I don’t want to mess this up. L.P., Renton
A. Welcome to backyard farming. Tomatoes are considered one of the easiest to grow veggies with great returns on any time investment as home-grown tomatoes taste so superior to typical grocery store varieties. Buy tomato plants for your plot, not seeds. Beans are the easiest crop to direct seed into the ground as well as beets, lettuce, salad greens, squash (that would be zucchini and winter squash) and in our climate all the leafy greens such as lettuce, kale and chard. Beginning gardeners may enjoy more success with started plants as some veggies are difficult to grow from seed in our climate. Take the time to visit with Master Gardeners at local clinics, join a garden club or research growing tips for the specific vegetables your family likes to eat.
Marianne Binetti will make the following appearances:
• Noon, May 13, at Tukwila City Hall, “Planting for Pollinators – Give Beauty and Bees a Chance.” Session is free, information at www.backyardwildlifefestival.org.
• 10 a.m., May 20, at Windmill Gardens in Sumner, “Weed Wars: How to Win the battle without Upsetting Mother Nature.” Register at www.binettigarden.com or 253-863-5843. Fee is $5.