Ask the gardening expert

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Here in early December, my raised bed veggie garden is loaded with weeds. In the spring, how can they be prevented from growing without affecting young veggie plants. There is what I think is chickweed in the flower beds as well.

It's not easy, but what you do early will lead to an better success this coming spring. So it comes down to hand weeding, or rototilling, In the raised bed, I think the easiest would be to cover them over with several layers of newspaper or cardboard to smother the weeds and suppress additional weed growth. Chickweed grows best during the fall and winter months. To prevent this small-leaved, ground-hugging weed from taking over your beds and borders, check regularly and pull any you find.

After reading that tulip bulbs should really be treated as annuals and that container planting was an option, I planted my tulips in a container and placed them in my garage for the winter. They have started to grow — should I take them outside now, despite the possibility of freezing weather? What do I do after they have bloomed? Do I need to discard them or can they be salvaged for container planting next year. If so, how do I salvage them?

Your containers of tulips should be taken outdoors now so they can bloom on schedule. You might want to just sink the pots into the ground, to give the roots and bulbs a little protection from a hard freeze. Early spring bulb leaves contain a natural antifreeze so if the weather is too cold, they'll stop growing, but they should be just fine in the weather. When temperatures warm up, they'll begin growing again. After they've finished blooming, let the leaves die down naturally, then dig and replant in beds if you care to, and they may survive there. In 20" and larger pots, I have several that contain an evergreen conifer, nandina, or other hardy filler. In early spring, I have added pansies or primroses around the dying tulip tops. It's easy to hide the dying foliage with all this going on in the containers. When they are finished, I find they pull away easily. Mine have come back for the third year. They have better and more blooms each year

I have several PJM. rhododendrons in a shaded woodland garden. All are planted in the same area and conditions. All have been in this location for 2 years with excellent results except that one of the three rhodies has rolled-up leaves (lengthwise like a taco shell) and is not blooming like the other two. It has small buds, but no flowers. It's leaves are staying darker brown than the others as well. Any ideas what's going on with this rhodie? We had several days of freezing rain last year that left many plants with thick ice on them for a day or so.

PJM rhodies are among the most trouble-free shrubs — they're resistant to root weevils (a common problem in the Pacific Northwest), and usually do not develop bacterial leaf spots, but like all plants, they have their limits. Rhodies tend to curl their leaves under toward the center vein when temperatures reach freezing. This is their way of conserving moisture and allowing only the smallest amount of leaf surface to be exposed to cold weather. The foliage generally uncurls when temperatures rise. If the leaves on your PJM have not returned to normal, the freezing rain and wind may have decimated it — perhaps to the point where it will not recover. If the roots and stems of this rhodie are healthy, the damaged foliage will be shed and new leaves will develop. You can check for life in the stems by gently scraping the bark away with your thumbnail. Green tissue directly beneath the bark indicates live tissue. It may respond by producing new leaves. However. if you can't find live wood, you may want to replace that one PJM. Since this rhodie is the only one affected, you might want to dig it up and check the root system. The roots may be tangled or damaged in some way that made it doomed from the start. Additionally, poor drainage can cause root rot, and rhodies are notoriously susceptible to root rot. You would be able to tell by looking at the roots (healthy roots are creamy white on the inside; dead or dying roots are rusty orange or brown).

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.