Good time to prune, aerate and fertilize

May 29, 2013 

The last week of May means it is time for some pruning if you have spring flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, forsythia, quince or viburnums that already have bloomed.

If those are on your to-do list, here are a few tips to consider:

Azaleas and heathers: This is a good time to shear azaleas and heathers back by a few inches all over the plant to encourage branching and more flowers.

Rhodies: You can control overgrown rhododendrons by removing one third of the tallest branches or shortening the entire shrub right after the plant finishes blooming.

And after you’re done with that, get to work on your lawn.

The end of May is a good time to aerate, fertilize and add lime to your lawn if you haven’t done so yet this spring. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to return valuable nitrogen to the soil and help shade out weed seeds. The secret to having a tidy yard and not collecting the clippings is to mow more often and use a mulching mower that will chop those grass blades into tiny pieces that can fall back into the soil.


There is good eating ahead for anyone who visits a nursery this month. New plants are available that will make you rethink how you enjoy your landscape – and eat your meals. Take a look at these:

Raspberry Shortcake: This compact plant is perfect for containers. This new raspberry plant does not need a pollinator, will not sprout wild vines that need supports and is happy contained in a pot. The berries are full-size and ready to harvest the first summer. Even apartment dwellers with just a bit of a sunny deck or patio can enjoy the fruits of very little labor.

Blueberries: These also are perfect for urban farmers. New blueberry varieties are available in dwarf and compact forms as well as unusual colors such as blueberry “Pink Lemonade.” Blueberry plants can thrive in container gardens if you remember that they love moist, acid soil. Keep them well watered and fertilize with a plant food made for rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas. Blueberry plants do not like lime near their roots.


Q: My new house sits on an empty lot and I am overwhelmed about where to start landscaping. What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to the area – or new to gardening? N.M., Woodinville

A: Start at the front door and work your way all around the house. By breaking a landscaping project up into smaller chunks, you can slowly envision and design separate areas as smaller gardens.

Once you add pots of color near the front door, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Then choose small and compact evergreens to spread around the property. Evergreens will make up the winter skeleton of the landscape. Fill in with flowering shrubs and small trees arranged in layers around the house. Finally, add groundcovers and splashes of color.

To learn more about what to plant where, pay attention to the plants that do well in your neighbor’s landscape, visit public gardens and go on a lot of garden tours this summer.

Tip: The Enumclaw Garden Tour is June 22.

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 at

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