Marianne Binetti

Mid-May means it’s time to plant kale and spinach and fertilize the lawn

The third week of May is time to fertilize the lawn if you have not done so already.

You can avoid using a weed-and-feed product if you keep your lawn thick enough to crowd out weeds, mow high to shade out small weeds and aerate and reseed thin patches of grass.

May is also a good time to dig compost into the soil before adding vegetable and flower starts and mulch around established plants to keep down weeds and seal in moisture.

In the vegetable garden continue to plant seeds of spinach, kale, salad greens and Swiss Chard, and warm-season crops such as cucumbers, zucchini and beans can go into the soil only if you have a raised bed and warm area. It is better to wait until June to seed heat lovers if your soil is still cold and damp.

Q. We have a dark area under the front porch, but I want to grow colorful flowers, not the typical foliage plants recommend for the shade. What summer flowers bloom in deep shade? — J.V., Kent

A. To light up the shaded spots you can’t beat impatiens for dependable color. Pair them with trailing or upright lobelia or shade tolerant begonias. White flowers will stand out best in dark corners.

Q. We have a very sunny and hot patio. I want to grow flowers in a window box that hangs from the balcony of this deck. What do you recommend for a window box in full sun? I do not like petunias or sedums. — M.M., Tacoma

A. Grow geraniums in your hot spots, and you’ll enjoy bountiful blooms despite the heat. Ivy leaf geraniums are not only full of flowers, but their scent will help repel flies as well. Just be sure to fertilize and water regularly to keep these heavy bloomers happy.

Ivy geraniums are not the best for mixing with other plant varieties. Keep things simple by using just one type of geranium in your window box so that these vigorous plants don’t overwhelm other annuals in a mixed planting.

Q. I heard you speak about different containers for different types of plants. I want to know the best type of container to use for fuchsias and also the best type of container to use for sedums and succulents. — B.N., Bellevue

A. Fuchsias, begonias and lobelias all like cool roots, so a container that insulates the root zone from heat will be like a luxury condo for cool season bloomers. That would be a plastic or light weight foam pot, the type that looks like stone or terra cotta but when you pick it up it is light weight. These plastic or foam pots do not breathe, so they hold in moisture and do not conduct heat.

For your heat-loving sedums and succulents, a clay or terra cotta pot that breathes and allows the warmth of the sun to heat up the container is best. The highly glazed pottery that often comes in bright colors and is imported from Vietnam or China also is great for containers for any type of plant, and, unlike clay pots, these imports are great investments because they can handle our freezing winter weather without cracking apart.

Don’t worry too much about matching pots to plants. Plants do adapt, and most any plant will thrive in most any type of container. Proper feeding, watering and sun exposure are more important.

Q. Why are my petunias turning yellow and dying? I used potting soil, I water often and I fertilize. They also get half day of sun. — C.V., via email.

A. Yellow leaves can mean many things, but my best guess is that your petunias are pouting because they are getting too much water. Young plants in early summer need much less water than the same plant later in the year.

When the weather is still cool at night, petunias and other annuals do not grow as fast, so they need less fertilizer. Do not water until you poke your finger up to the knuckle into the soil and it feels dry. Do not let the pot sit in drainage water. Raise it up by sitting it on top of a circle of plastic water bottle caps or some other form of pot “feet.” Too much to drink is the most common complaint of potted plants in early summer.

Reach Marianne Binetti through her website at or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022.