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Monday, September 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

From bentgrass to tomatoes, readers ask good questions

By Pat Munts

I love this time of year. All of you are out there playing in the dirt, or trying to, and end up e-mailing lots of great questions that everyone is interested in.

The first question has to do with when is a good time to cut back watering on tomatoes. With the wacky summer we’ve been having, that is a little complicated. If you have lots of red tomatoes, you want to back off on the water so they don’t get too much and split. Conversely, if there are still a lot of green ones mixed in, consider watering them by hand. Whatever you do, be consistent with the water. Tomatoes that have a feast or famine of water tend to get blossom end rot and/or crack around the top.

A finicky clematis is on the mind of another reader. Seems their plant on the north side of the house doesn’t want to bloom. Clematis need their roots shaded while the top needs to have access to six or so hours of sun a day. The fact that the plant is on the north side of the house might mean that it doesn’t get enough sun, especially if it’s a tall house. It might be possible to build a taller trellis and get it over the edge of the roof.

Another factor might be that clematis need to be pruned the right time of the year. Early spring bloomers can be pruned shortly after they bloom. Next year’s flowers will grow from wood that grew this season. Pruning them too late or in late winter will remove the new flower buds. Summer- and fall-blooming plants bloom on wood that grew in the current year and can be pruned early the following spring as the leaf buds emerge.

Another reader has a prized lawn that has been invaded by bentgrass. Bentgrass spreads by seed carried in by birds, animals and even lawn mowers. It is a perennial problem. The seed heads grow very close to the surface below mower height. It sprouts and makes a thick, light-green mat that crowds out other usually darker grass.

If it is growing as small patches, it can be sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup) and the area reseeded with good grass. The challenge here is that new seed may not grow in the same color as the old sod. If a lawn is badly infested it may be necessary to kill out the entire lawn and reseed or sod. One method would be to kill the lawn this fall and then spray again in the spring when the grass emerges. You can then seed or sod in mid spring next year. Or you can be ecologically minded and just live with it. Tough, I know, but like the old saying says, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by e-mail at

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