Marianne Binetti

Let the planting (of some things) begin

The second week of February is your last chance to use a dormant oil spray on fruit trees and roses, and is a great time to transplant trees, shrubs and groundcovers.

Bare-root roses can be purchased and planted this month as well as lilacs, berry bushes and onions. In the vegetable garden, add lime to correct our naturally acidic soil.

Here are a few questions from readers.

Q. When can I have my husband start mowing the lawn again? He claims March is the earliest any lawn should be mowed to prevent damaging the soil. Is this true? — B.C., Puyallup

A. No, but it is a great excuse to delay outdoor garden shores. Lawns can be mowed when the ground is not frozen or so wet that the wheels of the mower sink into the ground. This means some lawns may still be too soaked with winter rain to mow now.

If your grass is taller than 3 inches and you can walk across the lawn without sloshing in moisture, you can continue to nag for a fresh cut to kick off spring.

Tip: Rake and collect winter debris before you mow to avoid dulling the mower blades on fallen branches and leaves. Raking the lawn before the first spring mowing also allows air to enter the soil and encourages grass root growth.

Q. We live in Bonney Lake with terrible soil. Our lawn has been mostly weeds for years. We spent a lot of money on a service that used a weed killer so we could reseed and start a new lawn. The results were terrible. Now a lawn care company tells us we must bring in new soil if we want a nice lawn. This sounds expensive. What is your opinion? — JB Bonney Lake

A. Sorry to say you live on soil that is glacier till. Healthy lawns prefer topsoil, not rocks, to grow. Many homeowners in your area supplement the thin soil with Tagro, a topsoil made from the city of Tacoma that contains organic matter (contact cityoftacoma.org or 253-502-2150). You can also purchase soil amendments from Cascade Compost in Sumner and Puyallup or Cedar Grove compost in Maple Valley. Improving your soil before you add grass seed is more practical than using weed killers and fertilizers to fight a losing battle with the native weeds that thrive in your area.

Q. Is it time to prune roses? I live in Auburn. I am a new homeowner and there were some rose plants when we moved in. P.P. — Auburn

A. Yes, February through March are the best months to prune roses in Western Washington. Start by removing the three “D”s — anything dead, diseased or damaged. Then you can be severe and cut all the rose canes to just under 2 feet tall or be more gentle and shorten every branch by two thirds. The real secret of more rose blooms is to fertilize the plants several times during the growing season. Roses are hungry, thirsty plants and the more attention you give them the more flowers they give back.

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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