Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 63° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

Gardening: Recent rains bring much needed soil moisture

To deadhead a rhododendron after the flowers fade, simply break it off in the ridged area directly below the flower cluster. Spring is also the only time you can trim rhododendrons back. They put out their new growth, top of the picture, as the flowers fade. (Pat Munts / The Spokesman-Review)
To deadhead a rhododendron after the flowers fade, simply break it off in the ridged area directly below the flower cluster. Spring is also the only time you can trim rhododendrons back. They put out their new growth, top of the picture, as the flowers fade. (Pat Munts / The Spokesman-Review)

Last week’s record rainfall was perfect for gardening. It was a long, steady rain that soaked deeply into the soil, catching us up from the almost-inch deficit we were experiencing. If you have turned on your sprinklers, you can probably decrease the amount of time you are watering for a couple of weeks.

With the warm weather predicted for this weekend, we can safely begin planting the tomatoes, peppers, beans, cukes and other frost-sensitive vegetables. They will, however, just sit for a couple of weeks because the soil is still cool. Keep some frost protection coverings like tarps or light blankets handy. Mother Nature is still in charge, and she can throw in a weather curve ball. If using coverings at night, be sure to remove them in the morning as the temperatures under the covers can get hot enough to cook the plants.

Prepping bushes, flowers for next year

Many early bulbs have finished blooming. Deadhead them and then leave the foliage alone so the plants can build up their resources for next spring. They might look messy, but the leaves are collecting energy and storing it in the bulbs. Once the leaves turn yellow, they can be pulled. Fertilize your bulbs now with a low nitrogen fertilizer.

Now is the only time you can trim back lilacs and rhododendrons. Lilacs set next year’s flower buds on wood that starts growing as the plants finish blooming. Trim the finishing flower at its base and above the new emerging buds on the branch.

To encourage the growth of rhododendron flower buds for next year, carefully snap off the old flower in the short, ridged area just below the fading flower. The plant then puts all its energy into growing a new flower bud.

If your rhododendrons are getting too big, now is the only time you can cut them back and expect them to grow new leaves. The plants begin producing new leaf buds as the flowers finish so the cut stems will quickly send out new leaf buds to fill back in the space.

Grassy lawn tip: Aerate, don’t thatch

Our cool, wet weather has done wonders for the lawns. Fertilize them now with a slow-release lawn fertilizer. Slow-release fertilizers release their nutrients over time and avoid shocking the grass plants with too much nitrogen. A dark-green lawn is not a healthy lawn. By giving the lawn nutrients a little bit at a time, the roots can grow deep where water reserves will be later in the summer.

Contrary to popular opinion, most lawns in this area don’t need to be thatched to remove dead grass. We don’t tend to get the thatch buildup they get in other places because of our short season. Thatching tears out healthy grass blades and reduces the lawn’s ability to withstand the hot weather later in the summer.

Lawns should be aerated, though. The cores of sod pulled out will allow fertilizer, air and water deep into the turf.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.