Think about getting cool-season crops in the ground

  • Tue Feb 17th, 2009 7:10am
  • News

The Compleat

Home Gardner

Marianne Binetti will speak at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, 10 a.m. Saturday on “New Plants for Old Gardens” and at 2 p.m. Sunday on “Garden Thunder from Down Under.” The show is at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. For more information go to

During the third week of February you may now dig in and start planting!

Early spring is the time to plant the seeds of cool-season crops such as peas and sweet peas. Don’t plant just yet if your soil is still extremely wet or your pea seeds will rot before they sprout.

Try this green-thumb tip before you plant: Lay a damp dishcloth on a counter top and sprinkle your pea seeds on top. Cover with a second damp towel and roll up the two towels. Keep the cloths damp until the peas sprout. Then plant the pre-sprouted peas into the garden with no worries about wet weather. You’ll also enjoy an extra-early harvest.

Q. When should I prune my roses? They look pretty beat up from being covered with snow and whipped by wind, but I can tell they are still alive. R.T., Enumclaw

A. Grab your gloves and get snippy with them now. You can prune your roses anytime in early spring but I like to get it done before Valentine’s Day. Cut hybrid tea roses back by at least one-third, but shorten them by one-half if they need an extreme makeover. Remove any crossing, broken, diseased or damaged branches and save the thorny canes to use as “kitty deterrents.” Just set prickly rose pruning crumbs overly freshly dug soil or newly planted seeds and the cats will scat.

Q. My ornamental grasses have not only turned brown this winter but also look like an elephant has sat on them! I also lost the tags that tell me what kind they are. I don’t want to do anything that might harm them but am hoping I can cut them back now to make them look better. What do you think? P., Bellevue

A. I think you should celebrate the Valentine’s Day Massacre. This means mid-February is the perfect time to attack your weather-beaten ornamental grasses and cut them back to stubs. By removing the dead foliage now you’ll make it easier for the new growth to emerge for a tidy look later on. Don’t prune evergreen grasses such as carex or liriope. If the grass blades aren’t brown and soft leave them be until April.

Q. Is it too late to prune a hydrangea? I have a huge one that I would like to make more compact. Also, when should I fertilize a hydrangea? R.T., Sumner

A. You still have time to prune back your leggy hydrangea but don’t expect any blossoms next summer unless you leave a few tall branches. Hydrangeas bloom on 2-year-old wood, with the exception of the variety called “Endless Summer.” February is also a good time to fertilize all hydrangeas.

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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.