Ask the gardening expert



I think I killed my lovely hanging basket of fuchsias. It has been raining so much that I didn’t need to water my garden, but I forgot the basket, it was under the overhang of the house. It just looks awful; it’s all shriveled up. I have tried to water it, but the water just runs off and out the bottom. Would be a good idea to give it some fertilizer? Do you think it’s dead?

It might not be dead, but it does sound as if it’s in pretty bad shape. Once the potting soil completely dries out, its more difficult to get it to hydrate again. It probably won’t happen from watering the top.

Find a clean container that is somewhat larger that the basket, fill it with water, then plunge the whole plant into the water. Shove it down until the entire plant is underwater. Let it sit in the water until air bubbles no longer rise from the dry soil, then remove it from the water. It should feel quite heavy.

Let is sit in a shady spot overnight. The plant might completely hydrate, but if it has some dead looking droopy or damaged limbs, trim them. By all means do not put fertilized on now. Never fertilize a stressed plant.

Last year, I had so many bitter cucumbers that I don’t think I even want to grow any this summer. Can you give some advice on growing good cukes?

I understand your annoyance. I found this bit of advice in Garden Gate Magazine (August, 2011): According to a study by Washington State University, bitterness is caused by a compound called cucubitacin. Its usually in the leaves stems and roots.Occasionally, it spreads to the fruit. Researchers say its presence might be caused by water stress (too much or too little) and/or cool growing seasons.

For tasty cukes, they suggest keeping an even watering schedule, feeding them regularly and growing the right varieties.

Modern cultivars such as ‘Ashley,’ ‘Improved Long Green’ and ‘Lemon’ are less prone bitterness in tests by WSU researchers, so give cucumbers give another try.

It looks so ugly to let one’s lawn go brown. Why don’t people just water occasionally, so at least it doesn’t die in the hot part pf the year?

According to a horticulture professor at Cornell University, most lawns grasses can survive four to six weeks without water. Frequent light watering in hot weather actually encourages weeds and disease. Trees and shrubs actually need more frequent watering, he said. Be sure they get an inch of water a week, whether it’s from rain or your hose.

Any plants that have been added recently to the yard will need special attention for the first year and beyond.

Also remember to water hanging plants under eaves and overhangs. Hanging pots and baskets need attention daily and more often in hot weather, because they dry out so quickly in hot, dry air.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to