Readers are antsy to start planting, get out in the garden

The second week of February has some gardeners confused. Is it spring or winter? Can I mow the lawn? Plant some vegetables? Prune my rhododendrons? Here are the answers:

Q. Is it too early to feed the lawn? We have a lot of moss in some spots and thin areas in others.

A. Early spring is a fine time to add lime or a slow release lawn food to your grass. Just don’t apply the lime and the fertilizer the same week. An early spring feeding will help the grass to wake up early and crowd out some weeds. Using a moss killer on your lawn will kill off the moss quickly but unless you change the conditions the moss will come back. Moss in lawns is due to poor drainage, poor soil fertility, and too much shade. In deep shade a groundcover such as pachysandra or ajuga may be a better option than a lawn.

Q. Is it too early to mow the lawn?

A. You can mow the lawn as long as the ground is not so wet that you and mower sink into the ground. Do not mow when the ground is frozen and make this the year you sharpen the mower blades for a clean cut all summer.

Q. When can I start planting vegetables?

A. The easy answer to this is to read the back of the seed package. You can plant cool season veggies from seed sowed directly into the ground in late February or early March depending on the weather and the type of soil you have. The soil should be moist no wet. Cool season vegetables include peas, radish, lettuce, cabbage and other leafy greens. Do not plant warm season vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, or peppers until late May or June. You can start some vegetables and flowers indoors for setting out later but wait until late March or the seedlings can become too leggy before the soil warms and they can go outdoors.

Q. Can I prune back my huge rhododendron now? It is blocking all the light from a window.

A. No. Early spring is not a good time to prune rhododendrons or other spring blooming shrubs as you will be cutting off all the flowers. Pruning after blooming is the general rule of green thumb for rhododendrons. People should come before plants however so if you need more light, or if a plant is blocking a pathway don’t be afraid to take control. Rhododendrons are easy to transplant as they have shallow roots and most rhododendrons can survive drastic pruning.

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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