Ask the garden expert

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I am just about to order strawberry and blueberry plants from a catalog. I hope to save money by growing my own fruit. It is now early March and I live near the center of Vancouver (Zone 7, I think). Can I expect crops this summer?

Sorry, but I don't think so. Generally strawberries do not bear the first year.

Usually it's suggested that you remove the blooms the first year to allow the plant to become well-established before it produces fruit for your table.

Blueberries on the other hand are somewhat of an investment and can take several years to become established well enough to bloom and bear much of a crop. Since you are so close to the city, you are at least a zone 7 and maybe a zone 8 depending on your microclimate. Both these plants should thrive in your garden, given a little time. If you are looking to save money, sending to a catalog this late in the season, would not be the best idea as I'm guessing their best plants may have already been sent out to early customers.

Since you cannot harvest your own fruit this summer, the smart thing for you to do is the show up at the annual Master Gardener Foundation plant sale. It takes place Mother's Day weekend, May 11-12.

They are well-supplied with both strawberry and blueberry plants, among many other things. You could have your pick of many varieties that are selected for the Southwest Washington area.

The sale is huge, and greatly anticipated by the public, so come early, get in line. Gates open at 9 a.m. May 11 runs until 4 p.m.; May 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. You'll find fantastic prices and master gardener volunteers on hand to offer helpful advice on your gardening questions.

The master gardeners are selling vegetables (tomatoes a specialty), flowers, shade plants, sun plants, plus a nice selection of house plants. Hanging baskets, shrubs, trees, vines, berries, grasses, well, you name it and they'll have it! A fun addition is vendors in attendance will offer unique garden art, specialty plants and other hard-to-find items, plus the Mum Society will be there.

Did I tell you where the sale is located? It will be at The Heritage Farm in Hazel Dell, across from Grover Electric. The address is 1919 N.E. 78th St.

I live in Battle Ground and it is late March. I have had gardens with vegetables in the past and done well. This year I have started tomatoes and peppers from seed. Tomatoes are coming along but the peppers have not even sprouted. It has been two weeks. What is the trick? Thank you for your help.

I think your peppers may still sprout, they often are not as quick to germinate as tomatoes. You might want to unearth one of the seeds to see if it has begun to grow a root. If not, the seeds may not be viable or the temperature is not warm enough. Pepper seeds appreciate 75-80 degree soil so a heat mat might help.

Where can I locate a viburnum "Mount Fuji"? It blooms from April through October with white flowers that look like butterflies.

I can't seem to find reference to a viburnum called "Mount Fuji." Do you know the species of this viburnum? Most viburnums I'm familiar with only bloom once in spring. Could this be another plant you are thinking of?

I cannot think of any shrub that blooms all spring through summer. I believe that's too much to expect of a flowering shrub. They are blooming then set seed, and once they are pollinated by bees or other pollinators they then are able to set seed, so then are finished for that year.

I'd love to own a shrub that would be that generous with bloom.

Just suddenly there are so many plants in the garden centers. I'm surprised to see so many. Why are they so full, when it's still so cold?

You are right, it's pretty chilly for some of the plants, although I visited several garden stores yesterday, and noticed that they are bringing in mostly cold-hardy plants, and just a few that I'd want to protect.

Well, there are probably lots of reasons for filling garden centers so soon, The growers that supply the garden centers aim for late March to early April because historically there has been some lovely springtime weather in the Pacific Northwest at this time. There are usually requests from hobby green house folks to bring things in order for them to grow them in their green house, so they will have larger plants to bring out later in spring. Another reason is because every other garden center is doing it now, too. Who would want to be the only guy without?

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