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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gardening: Nursery beds can help young plants grow

Mail order plants are often small and need time to grow in a nursery bed. This group of plants is unique because they came in a coir fiber pot that can be planted in the ground.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

Wow, in the 40 years I’ve lived here, I don’t remember having as cold a spring like this. Here it is the middle of May and the only thing really up and going in my garden are the daffodils and hellebores. The sweet potato slips I got last week are shivering in a holding pot until the ground warms up a bit. The upside to the cool weather is that the weeds are up but they aren’t going crazy yet so there is time to catch them.

With all the plants sales that have gone on in the last few weeks, all the bargains at the nurseries and the arrival of mail order plants you may or may not remember ordering, looking after these little babies takes some coordination. The packing and shipping for mail order plants has gotten better in the last few years. Most nurseries have figured out how to pack the plants in protective boxes, so they arrive in good condition. However, they are usually small and might not survive in the open garden just yet. Consider planting them in a nursery bed for a season to grow bigger. Here you can control the amount of water they get, keep the weeds down and prevent nibbling until they are stronger. My nursery bed is part of my vegetable garden where I can watch them, and they get watered automatically. The plants you picked up at the plants sales could benefit from this approach too until you figure out where they are going in the garden.

I’ve been buying 4-inch pots of perennials instead of gallon sizes because they are less expensive, and they are easier to establish in the garden. Smaller root balls are easier to plant, and the roots often aren’t as rootbound.

The off and on again rain we’ve had has made it challenging to get lawns mowed. It’s not a good idea to mow wet grass because the blades don’t cut the grass cleanly and its easy to clog the mower up. There is a danger of you slipping on the wet grass which can lead to dire consequences if you are close to the mower blades. Lastly the mower will leave ruts in the soggy turf that won’t disappear easily. Under dry conditions, don’t remove more than half the grass height at a mowing. This leaves enough of the blade to supply the roots thus maintaining a healthy, dense grass cover.

Now is one of the two times a year you should apply lawn fertilizer. The second is in the fall. Use a slow-release fertilizer that will make the nutrients available slowly and prevent the rampant growth of the lawn. Dark green lawns are not healthy. Medium green ones are. Healthy lawns can resist drought better and shade out weeds. Don’t use weed and feed fertilizer products unless your whole lawn is weedy. Instead apply a weed control chemical only where it is needed. This helps with reducing the potential of contaminating ground water.