The sunshine and warmer weather we have been experiencing have brought our community of gardeners out in-force. Unfortunately, many of the questions you might have cannot be answered by your local WSU Master Gardener clinics. Recent news from the program indicates all 40 King County clinics (and across the state for that matter) have little hope of opening in 2020 due to COVID-19. So, I’m willing to do my part by answering the plants and gardening concerns you have in this new column.
I like the looks of bamboo but I am not crazy enough to plant some in my yard. I recently heard about 'clumping bamboo.' Is it safe and is it hardy in our area?
There are a few types of clumping bamboo that grows nicely in our part of the world. They have the same narrow leaves of the running bamboo, are evergreen, will grow 10 to 18 feet tall and, most important, stay put in one part of the yard. So, you can use them as specimens or as a hedge. Among my favorites are Fargesia denudate, F. robusta and F. scabria.
Is it too late to start tomato plants from seed?
If you wanted to start tomatoes from seed this year, the process probably should have begun about a month ago. Your best bet will be to purchase tomato starts. For those of you who want to do the whole nine-yards and begin with seed now, look for varieties that are noted as determinate. This is a tomato plant that matures to a certain size and ripens all of its fruit at once and is great for making marinara sauce, salsa, freezing, etc. In terms of days-to-maturity, think about cherry tomatoes, plum, and slicers that ripen in 70 to 75 days.
When should I replace my strawberries? Are the new runners going to produce fruit if the main plant is older than 5 years?
Strawberries make a good-looking and tasty ground cover. They are generally divided into two groups; June-bearing strawberries and day-neutral. If you are into baking, preserves, freezing, etc., the June-bearers (e.g., ‘Hood) are probably the best for you. Their crops ripen at the same time. The day-neutral (e.g., ‘Tristar’) produce their fruit throughout spring and summer. Consider planting some of both. My recommendation is for you to remove the ‘mother’ plant every fourth spring and let the third-year runners become the new mothers.
I have an indoor gardenia that has had spider mites for a couple of years. The plant is not dead (yet). I started spraying it with Neem oil. It still doesn't look great. Can my plant recover or do I give up hope a plant a new one?
Spider mites thrive in warm, dry environments. Increase the humidity around the gardenia by placing the plant’s container on a shallow pebble and water-filled container or by a daily misting.
Whether you keep or toss your plant depends on your attachment to it. At my home, if an ailing plant isn’t a gift from my wife or a friend and has not responded to non-chemical treatments, it is a candidate for the compost pile. As you are now evaluating the efficacy of the Neem Oil treatment, give the plant a few more months of TLC before making a decision. Then decide whether to love it or toss it knowing you did your best.