Ask the gardening expert

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I shared a large bag of fertilizer with a friend last spring. I put my half in a 5 gallon bucket, and he took the bag. He used his and then got rid of the packages. He thinks he remembers what the rate is, but it does not sound right to me.

I want to plant a lawn next spring and wonder if you can tell me a rule of thumb rate. How do you recommend I store it over winter? What can you recommend I do now to be able to use this fertilizer?

Of course, the ideal way is to buy what you'll need this season and not have to store it long-term. This fertilizer may not be such a bargain if you don't get a chance to use the product up.

I feel you should not use this product on your new lawn project.

All gardening products should always be left in the original containers. If it's placed in a more convenient container, in most cases it is illegal since it is then missing the manufacturer's instructions and safety information. One of the main reasons for that law is the strong chance of misuse of the product. We might think we'd remember what the product was, and how to use a chemical or fertilizer that we had put in a smaller container earlier, but believe me, you don't after a few months. It is a hazardous waste material at this point. My advice to you is to take it to Columbia Transfer & Resource Company in Brush Prairie area, 11034 N.E. 117th Ave. It takes lawn and garden products 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For information, call 256-8482 .If you are on the west side of the county, you might call West Van Materials Recovery Center, 6601 N.W. Old Lower River Road at 737-1727. It will take this product Friday and Saturday only.

I further recommend you buy just what you need for the project. If you are planning to store it, keep all direction for use. Find a dry, dark and cool storage spot. For granular fertilizer, look for a large enough storage container that is able to seal well, keeping moisture out. Liquid fertilizers should be kept in an area that does not freeze.

I planted a garden full of beautiful flowers. My neighbor said they are annuals and will die and I'm wondering what happens after they die down? Will they just never bloom again? Would I have to start all over again next spring? Can that be right? I put all that work into my garden and it just seems a little depressing that I will lose my whole garden after the summer.

It is true — annual plants are those that grow, flower, set seed and die at the end of the growing season. The good news is that many annuals will reseed. To get the most from your annuals, cut off the dead flowers before they set seeds (called dead-heading). If you keep the dead flowers cut off, most annuals will usually produce a second flush of blooms. If you allow this second flush of flowers to produce seeds (don't cut these off) you can either collect the seeds to replant or you can allow them to spill on the ground and sprout up next spring all on their own. This way, you will have some of the same annuals in your garden next year. For more permanence, plant some perennials in your garden in late summer and fall. They will stick around for three or more years and eventually you will be able to divide them, increasing your stock of flowering plants.

Annuals are typically used as accent plants; perennials are the backbone of the garden.

You should always have something in bloom and lots of new plants will pop up in the bed.

How can I avoid having my bulbs sprout early this year? Last year I planted in October or November, and some came up early in December. I was planning to keep them in the ground this year. Do I have to pull them all up after they bloom?

Bulbs sprout when their internal clocks tell them it's time. Go ahead and plant them this fall. They are pretty tough, and it won't hurt them to sprout early. Spring-flowering bulbs sometimes produce foliage many weeks before they're ready to bloom, in response to warmish weather. If the weather suddenly gets cold, the foliage just sits and waits. When things warm up again, the growing resumes and the bulbs bloom right on schedule. I don't think you need to dig the bulbs up -- they should bloom on time if left in the ground all year.

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