Grow for it – it’s OK to transplant trees and shrubs

The Compleat

Home Gardner

If you’re wondering if it is too late to add trees and shrubs to the landscape at the end of June, the answer is dig in and just grow for it – with some warnings.

Trees and shrubs that are sold at nurseries in containers are usually safe to add to the garden any time that the ground is not frozen. But only if you live in western Washington.

In other parts of the country, hot summer weather makes adding fruit trees, flowering shrubs and evergreens more risky. If you have trees and shrubs that you want to transplant and are now growing in the ground, not in a pot, then wait until fall to make the big move if at all possible.

Roses are especially difficult to transplant if they are growing in the ground, but easy if you buy them in full bloom but still in a pot from a nursery.

Any time you add, transplant or move a plant you will need to keep the soil moist until new roots grow. Just like any transplant operation, push the liquids but don‘t force feed the patient a big meal.

Q. We put down sod around a new construction site and now the grass is turning yellow and curling up at the corners of the newly laid sod squares. We have been keeping the area watered so I don’t think that is the problem. My husband did not think he needed to bring in topsoil so could that be causing this? Please help. L.W., Bonney Lake

A. Lawn does not live by water alone. You live in an area with rocky, hard-packed soil and I suspect there is a grassroots rebellion about the poor living conditions. No wonder you’re experiencing turf wars. Even in areas with rich, valley topsoil you need to prepare and loosen the earth before laying sod or seeding a new lawn. Roll up the yellow sod and store it in the shade. Invest in some quality topsoil and then tiller mix this into the top six inches of subsoil. For a superior lawn that will require very little water mix six inches of topsoil into the top foot of subsoil. This will give those grass roots 18 inches of soft soil to sink into. The deeper the grass roots the more water and nutrients they can find on their own. After you’ve prepared a comfy bed, unroll the old sod and use a roller to press it firmly into place. Feed, water and hope for the best. If your sod is all yellow or mushy and starting to rot you may want to just throw in the trowel and seed a new lawn onto your great topsoil investment.

Q. Help! I bought a perennial called lady’s mantle a few years ago and now it has spread all over and there are baby plants coming up in the cracks of my patio, my gravel pathways and even in the gutters of my house roof! How do I control this invasion? G.C., Renton

A. So now you know why this lady is called a tramp. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla) hops into everyone else’s bed, spreading her offspring high and low. The first thing to do is clean your gutters. They’ll overflow this winter if they’re full of enough gunk to support a perennial plant. Next, pull out all the young seedlings in every part of the yard. Now the important part – cut off all the bright, yellow blooms from lady’s mantle, euphorbia, lychnis and all other overly-enthusiastic plants that you don’t want reseeding all over the garden. Removing spent blossoms is more than just having a tidy garden, is it a form of plant birth control. But before we totally trash the reputation of lady’s mantle let me add it is a great plant to use as an edging in shade gardens or as a filler in perennial beds. The frothy yellow and green blooms look like baby’s breath and the rounded leaves have the endearing habit of holding onto dew drops so they sparkle like diamonds on summer mornings. Plus. lady’s mantle is slug, deer and drought-resistant. Not bad qualities for a bit of a tramp.

Q. I have a small orange tree that I grow indoors as a houseplant. Finally, I got to see oranges form on the tree. These oranges were small but starting to turn from green to orange. Then one morning the oranges started to fall off, before they were ripe. Now only one orange is left. What happened? A.D., Tacoma

A. Bud blast and fruit drop are two ways that fruit trees have temper tantrums. Something upset the pregnant tree and it decided to abort the fruit. The most common cause is lack of water. If you kept the soil moist, then perhaps you over-fertilized or exposed the tree to a harsh cleaning product or other contaminant. (In one case an office worker poured a cup of hot coffee into the soil of a potted citrus tree and lemons were falling by the end of the week.) Did you move the tree? Often house plants will fuss and complain when moved closer or farther away from a window. Don’t give up, keep the soil just barely moist and your orange tree will get all juiced up and ready to flower and fruit again.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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