Binetti: Your lawn is getting hungry — feed it

On GardeningMarch 19, 2014 

The last half of March is a prime time for lawn repair, rose pruning and berry feeding.

If you have not yet given your lawn a spring feed, now is the time to apply a slow release lawn food with nitrogen. If there are bare spots in the lawn then repair them this week by raking out the moss and debris and sprinkling fresh seed.

Be sure to use the same type of grass seed or overseed the entire lawn as different grass seed varieties will be different colors. Another way to repair a patch of lawn is to dig sod of the same shape and size from the edge of the lawn and use this matching grass section to fill in the bare spot. Then reseed in the less visible perimeter parts of the lawn where you removed the sod patch.

Here are a few reader questions:

Question: When do I fertilize raspberries and what type of fertilizer should I use? J.H., Maple Valley

Answer: Pull on the garden gloves and shovel up some manure because March is the month to pile manure around the roots of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries as these small fruits wake up from winter dormancy and decide how much fruit to bear this summer.

A mulch of rotted manure applied in early spring will also help to keep down weeds that compete with the raspberries for food and water. Roses and perennials also appreciate a blanket of manure this time of year.

Q: I have a rose that is supposed to be yellow but over the years it has been taken over by long shoots that bloom with red flowers. I am thinking I should just dig it up and plant a new rose. Can I plant a new rose in this same spot or will all roses turn red like the yellow rose? J.P., Olympia

A. I agree it is time for a change and March is a good month to add bare-root roses to your landscape.

Your yellow rose was taken over by a sucker that emerged from the root stalk of your grafted rose plant. To prevent this hostile take over, you can purchase roses that are grown on their own roots such as the David Austin varieties or hardy “landscape” roses.

The real root of the problem for most rose plants is not digging a big enough planting hole. When you are placing a new rose in the same spot that an old rose had been growing, you also need to replace the soil in that area to prevent “rose replant” disease.

Dig a hole at least 2 feet wide by 2 feet deep and use soil from a different part of the garden to fill in around the new rose plant. Soak bare root roses overnight before planting and if there is a cardboard box around the roots remove this despite what it says on the planting instructions.

New rose varieties are more disease-resistant than ever before, so get them off to a good start and I can promise you a rose garden.

Q. I have a hedge of healthy Flower Carpet roses and I have never pruned them. I also rarely fertilize or water these roses. Do I need to cut them back every so often to keep them healthy? A.T., Tacoma

A. No, the reason the Flower Carpet roses are sold in pink plastic pots and not bare root like other roses is because they are grown on their own roots and are more closely related to our wild or native roses.

Flower Carpet roses and other landscape roses do not require annual pruning and get by on less water and fertilizer than the traditional hybrid tea rose. These tough varieties do grow into large plants, however, so if you want to give them a spring haircut just prune to shape by shortening all the branches by one third or use long handled loppers to snip out any branches that are dead, diseased or damaged.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.

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