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, plus add granular or liquid plant food and also slow release fertilizers.
Continue to plant cool season vegetables such as lettuce, kale, peas and cabbage and most annual flowers and bedding plants can go into the ground this week. Think twice about planting warm loving plants such as 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 slowly. Those warm season 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.
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Q. My rose plants have green bugs and some orange tiny bugs that I think are aphids. 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 this weekend. 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 milk weed 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. Especially interesting 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 has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her through her website at binettigarden.com.
10 a.m., May 20: “Weed Wars: How to win the battle without upsetting Mother Nature.” Windmill Gardens, 16009 60th St. E., Sumner. Register at 253-863-5843 or binettigarden.com. $5 fee.