Ask the gardening expert

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In my new home there are so many flowers. The original owner said they are perennials and I should cut them all down on Oct. 1. I do recognize a few and know a little about how to take care of them, but there are so many I do not know. My new neighbor told me that there are some I should not cut, but I'm lost as to what I should do this fall. I'm tempted to just cut every thing. Will that kill them?

Cutting perennials at the end of season is a good cleanup method. However, there are a few that would be better off if you can make yourself wait until spring to do that chore. For some perennials the dead stock or top help with survival in the cold, wet weather of winter. It is a little tricky to know which ones they are, especially for a new gardener. That's where gardening friends, relatives who garden, garden books and magazines and the Internet come in. Neighbors with gorgeous gardens are wonderful resources for knowledge.

As to your question about cutting and killing the plants: It probably will not kill them, but it might up the chances of some coming back if you discover which ones should be cut later. Find the plant names or take pictures of the ones you are unsure of, then contact the master gardeners.

As educators they have been given the tools during their training to research the information. If they don't know each plant already, they can easily research it and come up with the information you need. You can reach them online or at mganswerclinic@clark.wa.gov. Send pictures or call the office. Leave a message if no one is available and your call will be returned promptly when the office is next maned. Call 306-397-6060, ext. 5706 To check out what else is going on at the Extension office.

I'm having a hard time keeping my lawn green. It just seems to go brown even if I do water it. So if I just water for a half hour each day in dry weather, I wonder if that would work? I don't like the look of a dead lawn.

Also I remember you saying several years ago that you water your garden by hand with a hose. How do you keep your lawn green that way?

Your plan to water a little every day is not a good one. It will encourage the root system to grow upward to the scant amount of water that is sprinkled each day. A shallow root zone makes the turf grass venerable to sun scald and intense drying of the root zone during the hot part of the day. That will kill the grass. The water is also wasted through quick evaporation.

A brown lawn is not such a bad thing. When it has gone brown, it is not dead, it's only waiting out the dry spell. Since your yard does not have a sprinkler system, trying to keep a large lawn area watered and green by moving sprinklers can feel like a losing battle.

According to horticulture professor Frank Rolli of Cornell University, most lawns can survive four to six weeks without water. Frequent light watering in hot weather actually encourages weeds and disease.

Yes,I do water by hand — good memory! — which is very time consuming, but pleasant and relaxing for me. One of the advantages to this method is that I am able to observe changes and spot areas and plants that need my attention before they are in trouble. A disadvantage is, of course, that you're stuck with the job; but that's a choice I made.

The majority of my garden takes care of itself, as I try to select plants — mostly shrubs and trees — that can do that. I have many containers placed through out several beds near my entrance, and they receive the majority of my watering time and effort.

The lawn in my yard is never watered. It's mostly pathways to planted beds. Being brown in late summer is of little concern to me and my family.

I do not use an overhead sprinkler, although in extreme long, dry spells that we seem to have each summer, I have been known to place a small sprinkler under stressed shrubs.

When the water is going at a low rate, it may be easy to forget it. I use a timer and decide how long to leave it going under a particular shrub or tree. I carry the timer with me. It's been my experience that the shrubs and trees need this kind of deep watering only once during our usual summer drought period.

I would prefer the roots to go deep and find water on their own, but I water when newer planting or a more venerable one that show signs of stress.

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

Cabbage bolts: Heat will make cabbage bolt. The Ask the gardening expert column on Page D3 on Aug. 31 contained an error.