Ask the gardening expert

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I read in the paper how to dry herbs. Do you know how to do it?

I can give you the method I have used, but I do not believe I ever said how in print. I think it might have been another program at Washington State University Extension. I'm guessing it was WSU Food & Safety and Nutrition. The hotline, 397-6060, ext. 5366, takes calls from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

I do it the easy way.

My way isn't fast, but I like it because it's easy and the leaves stay rather green. I strip the leaves, put them in a paper bag and fold it closed I put in the refrigerator and turn the bag over every time I use the fridge.

In a week or two, they are dry and a nice green. I don't do basil this way anymore, though, because of the strong smell; it overpowers everything in the refrigerator.

We have a beautiful 2-year-old Prairie Fire crab apple tree in our yard that has some mushrooms coming up in the compost I put there last fall. I've heard that could mean that my tree is dying, but it looks fine. Do you think the mushrooms mean I'll lose the tree?

I don't think the tree is in danger. It is more than likely that the compost is decomposing. Placing organic matter away from the trunk serves two purposes: it helps keep the root area cool in hot weather and it helps conserve water.

You told me two things that make me feel the tree is fine: when putting the compost down, you were careful to keep it away from the trunk, which is a good practice; and the mushrooms are little round ones that lift out easily. As long as there is no growth coming from the trunk itself, I wouldn't worry. Just dispose of the mushrooms.

We want to move some large, old roses bushes next to our driveway area. That would make a place for our son to park his car. I know it's not the best time of year. I want to place them on the south side of the house. Are you going to tell me it's an altogether bad idea?

Yes, I think I am. You mentioned the spot you wanted to place them slopes down to the south, which will be a hot spot. I don't think you should try it unless you have time and energy to baby them though the rest of the hot, dry summer months. If you do go ahead, they are going to need careful attention in transplanting. Plants that have been in a spot for that long would have a root system that has spread far and wide.

Cut the rose back severely, so the plant doesn't have to support vast amounts of limbs and branches during recovery from the shock of being dug up. Consider investing in a soaker hose and keep it at the base of the roses all summer.

Good luck. It might be easier to start over.

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

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