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Ask Dr. Q?

(Courtesy  www.starnursery.com)

These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions landscape professions are asked on a daily basis. Please note that the answers are also somewhat regionally specific to the Northwest. If you have gardening and landscaping questions not listed please send your question directly to DR. Q.

Click the Q: for the answer.

Q:  What kind of plants can I plant in my yard?  (Most often asked by people new to    the area, but not asked often enough before purchase.)

Q: What's the best way to plant this (shrub, tree, ground cover, etc)? Probably the most frequently asked question.

Q: The leaves on my plants are pale, yellowish-green with dark green veins, what is wrong with them and what can I do to make them look better?

Q: How often and how much should I water my plants?

Q: What kind of fertilizer should I put on my lawn?

Q: How often do I fertilize my lawn?

Q: My leaves have brown tips and large brown spots, what's the problem?

Q: How do I take care of roses in this area?

Q: What kind of fruit or nut trees can I grow here?

 


Q:  What kind of plants can I plant in my yard?
(Most often asked by people new to the area, but not asked often enough before purchase.)

a:  Before this question can be answered, other things must be considered! Where are you going to plant it- -south, west, east or north exposure; near a reflected heat source like a west-facing wall? Will it be exposed to strong, drying winds, either hot or cold? Will it be subjected to lawn water or sprinkler overspray? Will it withstand frost and freezing temperatures? Understand the sun, shade, and water requirements of your plant selection before you plant it! Browse your local nursery or garden center and read the signs. Ask a sales associate for specific information if you're not sure, and ask for any literature that may be available. With this information, you'll be able to pick plants that will complement your landscape and more importantly will stand a greater chance of survival.

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Q: What's the best way to plant this (shrub, tree, ground cover, etc)? Probably the most frequently asked question.
a: Soils in the northwest are most often sandy with little or no organic matter, poor drainage and are excessively salty or alkaline. For non-native plants, this means special planting instructions are needed. Click here for a diagram.  This is the best way to protect your investment and have a well-planted yard. Cut corners and you run the risk of having to spend more time and money later.

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Q: The leaves on my plants are pale, yellowish-green with dark green veins, what is wrong with them and what can I do to make them look better?
a: Your problem is chlorosis, or not enough iron being taken up by the plant. In heavy, alkaline soils, this is more likely caused by too much water rather than lack of iron in the soil. Water deeply and infrequently rather than sprinkle daily. Plants need to breathe just like people. Constantly wet soil causes root damage and inhibits the uptake of water and nutrients by the plant. Once your watering schedule is fixed, the problem may correct by itself. If not, then add a chelated iron supplement like KeRex" or Ironite" to correct the problem.

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Q: How often and how much should I water my plants?
a: This is a difficult question, no matter what the circumstances. It has probably gotten more answers than any other question. To arrive at a correct answer, you must take several things into account:

  • (1) Plants with similar water needs should be on the same watering schedule. Native and non-native plants have vastly different water needs.
  • (2) What kind of soil do you have- -sandy, heavy clay, caliche, loam or a combination of these? Plants growing in different types of soil also have different water needs.
  • (3) Are your plants in full sun or full shade? Are they subject to strong winds, especially during the hottest part of the day?
  • (4) Shallow rooted plants need more frequent watering than plants with extensive, deep root systems and should be placed on a different watering schedule.

Now to the heart of the matter! Most shrubs and trees do best with deep, widely spaced irrigation. How long it takes to do this is subjective and depends largely on soil makeup, size and type of the plant. Remember to adjust your watering schedule each season. Plants use less water in cold weather and the soil gives it up more slowly than in summer. For more detailed information and recommendations, see StarNote 900, How Much Should You Water? When in doubt, err on the side of conservatism. We have a saying in the desert southwest, "The worse they look, the more you water; the more you water, the worse they look until they die." By the way, new plants need more water, sometimes daily, until they are established. Plants generally need one growing season to be considered established.

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Q: What kind of fertilizer should I put on my lawn?
a: I before E, except after C, or, fertilizers change with the seasons, unless they are slow release. During the hot summer months, balanced fertilizers lower in nitrogen, like Super Iron (9-9-9) are good choices. They give you controlled growth and have extra iron for deep green color. Turf Supreme® (16-6-8) is an excellent spring and early fall fertilizer that promotes quick growth and rapid greening. During the cool season, late fall through early spring, Turf Supreme® Fall and Winter Feed (20-3-13) or Nitra King® (22-3-9) are specially formulated to help lawns keep that nice green color and withstand the stress of cold temperatures. GARDEN TIP: Be sure to apply a cool season fertilizer before the first heavy frost, or your lawn may go dormant until warmer weather arrives. Now for the kicker- -Royal FlushT (16-4-8) is a new, organic-based, slow release fertilizer that can be effectively used year-round. It not only feeds your grass, but its organic formula conditions your soil at the same time. See StarNote 810, Fertilizing & Maintaining Your Lawn, for more information.

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Q: How often do I fertilize my lawn?
a: Most seasonal lawn fertilizers call for feeding every 4-6 weeks. Slow release types are usually effective for 8-12 weeks. Some publications and garden gurus call for feeding on every 3-day weekend. Factors like soil condition and frequency of irrigation also affect fertilization. Hard, crusty soil or heavy thatch prevents nutrients from effectively reaching the lawn's root system while over watering leaches the nutrients away before they can be absorbed. Most people tend to over fertilize. This is bad for the environment and bad for the pocketbook. Use good cultural practices, i.e., proper mowing, raking and watering, then let your grass tell you when it needs food. Look at your lawn critically every few days. If the color is nice and green, don't fertilize. If the color is a little bit off, or light, feed the lawn. Many people using this method find that they only fertilize about 3-4 times a year.

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Q: My leaves have brown tips and large brown spots, what's the problem?
a: Most likely summer stress. This is generally caused by putting the wrong plant in the wrong place, watering improperly-usually too much or too often, or fertilizing incorrectly. If the leaves on top show the symptoms you describe, but the under growth is in good shape, it's a clear sign of sunburn. See StarNote 135, Summer Stress in the Desert, for detailed information. If it's not the warm season, poor drainage and improper watering might be the cause.

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Q: How do I take care of roses in this area?
a: It's generally easier to grow roses in the Inland Northwest than in other parts of the country. We have a long growing season and our dry climate naturally retards diseases like rust and black spot. There are some problems with powdery mildew, usually caused by overhead sprinkling, but these are easily corrected. Our mild winters make it necessary to force roses into a dormant state so they will perform properly in the spring. This means stripping all leaves and hard pruning roses in January; climbing roses and minis require a different approach. Extreme summer heat puts roses located in south and west exposures into a semi-dormant state. Don't fertilize them during this time. For complete rose information, see StarNote 520, Rose Selection, Care and Planting.

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Q: What kind of fruit or nut trees can I grow here?
a: Though none are native to our area, most fruit trees can be grown successfully. Apples and plums do well. Pears and plums also do well.  Dwarf varieties are good for container growing or landscape planting. Our winters have a significant impact on how well the trees will bear. See StarNotes 500, Fruit Tree Selection, Planting and Care, and 505, Fruit Trees for Desert Climates, for a complete discussion of winter chilling factors and fruit tree varieties.

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Cities served in Washington and North Idaho:

  • Spokane, WA
  • Spokane Valley, WA
  • Town and Country, WA
  • Veradale, WA
  • Fairwood, WA
  • Country Homes, WA
  • Liberty Lake, WA
  • Airway Heights, WA
  • Cheney, WA
  • Rathdrum, ID
  • Dalton Gardens, ID
  • Post Falls, ID
  • Hayden, ID
  • Coeur d’Alene, ID