Ask the gardening expert

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When we first moved here from the coast, a nursery person told me that if given enough water a fuchsia can thrive in sunshine. I've been trying to grow them that way, each of the two summers here. I've had some sun damage, and I water a lot, but I sure am having way more problems this summer. I am watering about every three hours, they get dry so fast and they are burning on the tops and wilting. Now I'm wondering if I should dig them up and move them now? Was that guy wrong about planting in a sunny yard?

I believe he was wrong; this was not good advice. I really hate to see you move these poor mistreated plants now, however. You should shade them somehow, by placing a large beach umbrella or other portable shade over them in the hottest part of the day. Move them in the fall when the soil has cooled.

I think gardeners can only expect to grow a hardy fuchsia in a sunny garden if it had some sun relief in the hottest part of the day. But surely not here in the area where we usually have these hot, dry late-summer conditions. Most summers in Southwest Washington have too much hot sun to grow a fuchsia without some shady time-outs from the sun. As for your future gardening, here are a few hints. Water in the early morning before the sun rises too high. Avoid watering at midday. If you're setting a sprinkler to water at noon, much of that water will evaporate before it reaches your plants. If you can't water early in the morning, the second best time to water is in the evening. Water the plants that need it the most. This includes anything that is newly planted or seeded, or vegetables that are just beginning to bear fruit. Avoid watering lightly as that will only encourage roots to grow at the top of the soil, leaving plants susceptible to future droughts. Saturate the soil and then apply mulch to keep roots cool and moist.

I've decided to add more drought-tolerant plants to my gardens, such as sedums, achillea catmint, coneflowers, ornamental grasses and daylilies.

We saw the master gardeners at the fair last month. I was surprised that they didn't seem to know how to identify a tree limb a lady brought in. How do they get to be master gardeners if they don't know the answer to questions people ask and have to look them up?

MG don't need to know the answer to all gardening and horticultural questions; that's why we have books,and other educational information available. Master gardeners are educators; we do research on subjects in the horticultural field in order to answer your questions and give you guidance in your growing practices.

A person in the master gardener program does not need to have a large basic knowledge of gardening. What they do need is a desire to learn, and a willingness to help people do a better job in their own gardening, whether it's vegetables or an ornamental garden.The master gardener training class has already begun for 2012. It is an 11-week course and will be offered again beginning in September 2013. For information on next year's training classes, call 397-6060, ext 5738, or 5701.

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