Ask the garden expert

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I have two questions about composting; rhododendron leaves, can I put them in my compost? And what about the lawn clippings. We used a weed and seed product, and wondered it that would cause a problem in the compost?

Yes to the first part of the question, however the rhododendron leaves would break down much faster if you would make a pass or two over them with the mower to give them a good chop. As for the lawn clippings, you should not add anything that has had a pesticide of any sort. Additionally, don’t ever add the lawn clippings at all.

Under most circumstances, I would suggest you don’t remove the clippings as they become nitrogen for the grass if left on. In the future, don’t use a ‘blanket’ pesticide application. Spot spray with a safer product, one with glyphosate, as it only kills plant material that it touches, then loses its ability to kill as soon as it touches soil.

There are dead-looking spots with pinkish blades on the dead grass, what is it, and what can I do about it?

Without seeing it, it’s hard to be certain, but it does sound like “red thread,” a fungus disease. It’s a common disease in long, chilly spells of wet weather. Apply a well-balanced fertilizer with adequate nitrogen and that should do the trick, the other missing ingredient is warmer weather. Contact the Master Gardeners office for a more positive identification. They are in Hazel Dell at the Heritage Farm. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday. Call them at 360-397-6060, ext. 5711. Or you might email them at MGanswerclinic@clark.wa.gov. The farm is at 1919 N.E. 78th St.

I’m starting my first garden. I already have pansies, but something is eating them. I don’t see any bugs, What is happening to them?

It sounds like the work of slugs. They feed at night, so you probably won’t see them. In daytime, they are hiding under leaves, pots or some other hiding spot, sleeping off their big meal. There are lots of ways to fight them but they are pretty persistent. There are new products on the market that do a good job against them and are safe around children and pets. Check with your garden center, read the labels carefully, as you do on all garden products.

I’ve noticed aphids on some of my plants. What would you recommend I spray on them?

Water. That’s a great, fast method for getting them off plants. Once the aphids are blown off, they do not have the ability to come back onto the plant. Another is to smash them. I usually have latex gloves on and find this method quick, easy, and pretty efficient. Make sure you get all of them.

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