Attack weeds now - or pay the price later

April 6, 2011 

This is the time to weed, feed and heed the advice of experience. If you don't pull, hoe or smother weeds in April, you'll have showers of weeds all summer long.

Weed: Make this the week you pull, smother and hoe every weed in your garden and you’ll have millions less weed seeds to deal with this summer. The million number is no exaggeration. A single weedy plant can spew up to 50,000 weed seeds into the air, and each tiny seed will try to sprout and spread.

Feed: Early April is also when you see the start of new growth on trees, shrubs and perennials. Hungry, hard-working blooming plants such as roses, clematis and phlox will appreciate a helping of fertilizer this week, either alfalfa pellets, composted manure or a commercial plant food that releases nutrients slowly into the soil.

Fertilize the lawn if you haven’t done so yet this spring. A spring feeding helps to crowd out summer weeds.

I have a rose that is in partial shade. Can I move it now? M.B., Seattle

It is not too late to transplant or move rose plants but don’t delay – the longer you wait, the more painful it will be for the rose. The best time to move roses and evergreens is when they are under the anesthetic of winter dormancy. You can prune the rose by one third before you start the operation but don’t fertilize right after a transplant, unless you use a slow-release plant food. Push the liquids, not a big meal after any operation.

Are there any roses that will do well in the shade? I would like a climbing rose for the north side of my house. T.S., Tacoma

Yes, I have one in my own garden. It is an old-fashioned climbing rose with great fragrance called Zephirine Drouhin that is still popular in Europe and blooms most of the summer with deep-pink, double flowers. I grow it in partial shade, but here’s the garden gossip: Zephirine blooms but I wouldn’t say it’s a heavy bloomer when grown in the shade or partial shade. Like all roses, this climber would produce more flowers with more sun. The good news is that it has remained healthy in the shade for a dozen years. You can find this rose at nurseries that specialize in Old Roses. I bought mine from Wayside Gardens years ago ( Another pink rose that survives in my mostly-shaded garden is Queen Elizabeth, but this reliable grandiflora rose does best when allowed to grow quite tall – and Queen Liz has never had much of a fragrance.

I want to start growing vegetables this year. What is the name of the book you wrote and how do I sign up for vegetable-growing classes? B.B., Bonney Lake

The book is called “Edible Gardening for Washington and Oregon” and it is not just about growing veggies. In our climate, there are lots of other edibles that grow well so I’ve included growing berries, herbs and even dandelions. To sign up for any of my April gardening classes, including the class on “Incredible Edibles,” go to or call Green River Community College at 253-288-3400. I’ll also teach Saturday morning classes on “Edible Abundance” available free at Sky Nursery in Shoreline and Furney’s Nursery in Des Moines. Visit their websites for more information.

I need a privacy hedge that will grow fast but I do not want to prune it every year once it is mature. I have lots of room. What do you think of English laurel? N.H., Olympia

I do not think too much of growing English laurel only because it grows too much. The fast-growing English laurel will survive shade, drought and even salt spray but it can send “volunteer” plants all over the neighborhood and grows very wide. To keep it looking tidy, English laurel requires lots of trimming. Instead, consider a mixed hedge planting of Portugal laurel (P. lusitanica) mixed with evergreen conifers such as the upright and narrow-growing junipers or arborvitae. Blue Point juniper, Spartan juniper or Green Columnar junipers grow tall but stay narrow and tidy. Stagger the plantings rather than line the shrubs up in a row like soldiers. Now you’ll have a natural-looking, evergreen privacy hedge that won’t demand any pruning to keep it looking tidy.


Sign up for a trio of spring gardening classes through Green River Community College, held at the Enumclaw campus. All classes are in the evening from 7-8:30 p.m.; the fee is $25, with a discount if you take all three classes. You’ll get handouts, seeds and some new plant samples.

April 12: “A Colorful Start” offers inspiration from Holland on starting a first garden and adding more color and drama to an established garden.

April 19: “Incredible Edibles” addresses how to grow herbs, veggies, berries and fruits as part of the landscape, in pots or in raised beds.

April 26: “Garden Artists” draws inspiration from Monet, Renoir and local artists that turn any garden into a masterpiece.

To register, go to or call 253-288-3400.

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