By Steve Smith
Well, are we all feeling a wee bit exhilarated by this fabulous spring (or should I say summer) weather? Are we experiencing a burst of energy and an intense desire to get everything done in the garden in one weekend? Pace yourself. While I did get a ton of work done last weekend – my raised beds are now ready to plant and I limed, mossed, and fertilized my lawn – there are some things we are going to have to wait on, such as planting basil, tomatoes, hanging baskets and pruning hydrangeas.
I live by the saying, “You can plant year-round in the Northwest.” I must add, however, that what you plant must also be appropriate for that particular time of year. It is too early for basil. But you could stick a tomato in the ground now, and while it would pout and probably turn purple, it would not grow until
the soil temperature warmed up to at least the 50s. So why waste the space when you could plant lettuce or peas, harvest them, and then use that same spot for tomatoes later.
This is a perfect time to plant roses, shrubs, trees, perennials and even some cold hardy annuals like pansies, snap dragons, calendula and stocks. Normally, I would say it’s too early to plant a new lawn, but with it being a record 76 degrees Monday you might be able to get away with it. Even if you are not planting a new lawn, this is a good time to feed and renovate an existing one. As far as planting new perennials and shrubs, remember my second saying I live by, “There is always room for one more plant.”
My other concern is assessing winter damage – it is going to take several months to figure that all out. My hydrangeas are not looking good, and I am going to have to wait and see where they start to regrow and prune off all the dead wood above that point. That could mean cutting them all the way down to the ground.
That could be true for a lot of deciduous shrubs. Broadleaf evergreens, like rhododendrons, laurels, Fatsia and Skimmia are showing some winter burn. Again, as new growth emerges, cut them back. That process stimulates more new growth. Be sure to apply some extra fertilizer to help support the replacement growth.
Conifers are harder to tell what is alive and what is dead because the leaves don’t wilt like a rhody. Most evergreens (conifers) should be just fine, unless they are in containers. I left outside large containers of Japanese maples, conifers, mixed perennials and grasses, and if the roots froze they will be slow to leaf out, if at all. If evergreens, like Sky Pencil Japanese holly, have root damage they will gradually turn a dull color and eventually drop their leaves. While they might recover later this summer, it’s not worth the wait. Jerk them out and start fresh – life is short.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.