Marianne Binetti

Hire a trusted friend or neighbor to water plants while you’re gone

Summer has homeowners thinking about who will water their plants when they go on vacation. The best advice is to hire a trusted friend or neighbor to hand water your potted plants and hanging baskets while taking in account the weather conditions.

You can also install an automated drip system that is connected to a timer at your faucet. Some drip or soaker systems even come with a rain gauge that will turn off the water when a downpour arrives.

Another method is to move all your potted plants to a shaded area and set them into a plastic wading pool with an inch of water in the bottom of the pool. The plants will absorb the moisture from the drainage holes in the containers and by grouping the plants together they will benefit from the collected humidity of one another and require less moisture.

Q: Why did my pea plants die? I harvested some very nice peas and then the vines started to turn yellow and dry at the bottom and are now half dead. I did water. V.Y., Puyallup

A: Blame summer. Peas are cool season crops and can be planted early in the spring when the soil is still cold. Cool season crops do not do well in late summer. The days grow too long and hot, so they wither and die. Rip out the overdone pea plants and get some bean seeds in the ground. You may still have time for a late fall bean harvest.

Q: Something is eating small holes in the leaf margins of my hydrangea. The damage is worse on the lower leaves and the bite marks are very small about the size of the end of an eraser. Any ideas what this could be? M.B., Olympia

A: I always think first of slugs when I hear about leaf damage on the margin of foliage. Check for tiny slugs feeding at night or after a rainy day. Earwigs and sow bugs can also take a bite out of leaves but prefer that the foliage be old and partly rotted.

Root weevils are also known to make notches in leaf margins but they usually prefer rhododendrons. If the damaged leaves are young and healthy, suspect the slug. An effective slug bait called “Worry Free” is safe to use around children and pets and will keep your hydrangeas happy.

Q: What is the name of the tree that has leaves like a duck’s foot and has been around since the dinosaur days? I have heard this tree has beautiful fall color, but can’t remember what to ask for at the nursery. D.D., Enumclaw

A: I am going to guess that your mystery tree is a ginkgo biloba also called the Maidenhair tree as the foliage resembles the leaves of our native maidenhair fern. This slow growing but eventually very large tree turns a butter yellow in the fall. The small leaves drop all at the same time from the tree making a lovely splash of color on the lawn, but they are light enough to be windblown and do not usually require raking. You are smart to purchase a male ginkgo tree from a reputable nursery as the female trees have a stinky fruit and should not be sold.

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