Ask the gardening expert

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The tomato plants I bought are getting tall and spindly, but I read where you tell us not to plant until it's warm outside. What shall I do with them until then.

You could re-pot them into containers large enough accommodate the long stem. However, I think you would be better off to buy new starts now, and there should not be too long a wait now before the soil warms up. Re-pot the new ones into gallon size pots. and when it's consistently warm enough (50 degrees plus) at night, plant them, it may not be until the first part of June. I got a chuckle as I read some comments from the former Oregon State University Extension Service Agent, Ray McNeilan (and great friend of Master Gardeners). His comment reads; "Planting early usually results in low plant vigor and lack of growth. Plan to replant in early June."

When do you think we will be able to buy local strawberries?

That is a little hard to give a date, each year it does fluctuate due to weather. There were some nice days in May that should help that date approach, but of course it's never going to be a regular date on a calendar. Watch the classified ads or look for them to be showing up at the farmers markets sometime soon.

There is a lot of chickweed showing up in my garden, what can I use to control it?

It's easy to pull, or hoe. I suppose there are chemicals that would control it, but it's just so easy to deal with manually. I hate to see someone use a chemical on such an easy weed to remove.

My rhododendron has finished blooming and starting to look ugly. Can I cut them off? How far down do I cut?

By taking off the dried and spent bloom off the plant you are preventing the development of seeds and allow all the plant's energy to be directed toward growing flower buds for next year.

Don't cut them, just carefully twist off the spent bloom, taking care not to break the tender new growth below it, as that is the new stems and bloom for the coming year.

It is such a chore to remove them, if you have several large plants. I admit I'm lazy about it, (I have over 15 in my garden). I remove the ones in the pathways, and areas that one frequents, but I really don't go after them all. They all bloom just fine -- I cannot distinguish any difference in next years bloom. I do realize that not what the true gardener would say, but it works for me.

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