Plant peas, kale, other cool-weather veggies

Q&A: And you might still be able to save those forgotten bulbs

March 16, 2011 

The third week of March is time for seeding, weeding and reading as new plants and new weeds announce the beginning of the growing season. It is now safe to plant peas, lettuce, radish, kale, Swiss Chard and other cool-season crops directly into the ground. Don't get hasty and plant warm-season crops just yet. There are still plenty of cold, wet days ahead.

I forgot to cut back my ornamental grasses back in February (you mention doing it on Valentines Day – and called it the Valentine’s Day massacre) so my question is what to do now? I see new growth sprouting up through the old brown blades of grass. To cut or not to cut? J.C., Maple Valley

I vote to cut back the dead fronds of ornamental grasses now so you’ll have a more tidy look and less slugs and disease all summer long. This doesn’t mean you should prune evergreen carex or black mondo grass. Grasses that don’t go dormant or turn brown in the winter do not need spring pruning.

I just found some tulip and daffodil bulbs sprouting in a bag in my garage. I forgot to plant them in the fall. Can they be planted now? “Big Procrastinator.”

Drop the newspaper, run outside and dig in. If you plant immediately you can save your bulbs. Your garage may have provided enough of a winter chill to knock them out of dormancy so that, even at this late date, by planting now you still have a chance of enjoying a few weeks of spring bloom. Bulbs are forgiving – but the spring bloomers do need to experience at least six weeks of cold temperatures before they will flower.

I used a moss killer on my lawn and it turned all the moss black. This looks worse than the moss itself. My questions is must I rake and remove all this black, dead moss before reseeding my lawn? J.K. Enumclaw

So sorry, but the answer is yes. You must either rake out the old dead moss or add an inch or two of topsoil on top of the dead moss before sprinkling lawn seeds to reseed the lawn. But here’s more bad news. The moss will come back unless you change either the fertility of your soil, get rid of the shade, increase the drainage or raise the pH of your soil. Moss loves our wet climate. More about taming the moss monster next week.

How does one fertilize blueberries? When, how much and with what? N.F., Tacoma

Blueberries are waking up and hungry now. Fertilize with a rhododendron and azalea food as they love acid soil. Follow the instructions on the label. Blueberries do not need regular pruning but you can always remove any dead or damaged branches.

My jasmine vine has evergreen leaves but this winter the foliage turned dry and wrinkled. Should I cut the top off the vine now? Did it die from the winter weather? I’ve had it in the same spot for five years and it has never looked this bad. N.N., Puyallup

Don’t get snippy just yet. Wait until you see signs of new growth before cutting into tender plants like jasmine. I’m going to go out on a garden limb here and predict that in May you’ll see new growth and that is when you can shorten the sorry-looking vine by two-thirds.

Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her Web site at

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