Ask the gardening expert

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How can I safely move a very large climbing rosebush? It is a "Climbing America" variety. Three years ago, I planted it next to the front porch. Last year, it grew over the roof and inside the porch ceiling. It is just too large for the area. I would like to keep it there, because it is a beautiful rose, but it has grown too large, but should I move it?

You are so lucky! "Climbing America" and "Queen Elizabeth" are my two favorite climbing roses. (I wish my "Climbing America" were doing that well.)

In some cases, you can prune and train a large plant such as this so it looks lovely and behaves it's self, arching over the porch and staying out of the way. Pruning should be done in the spring and summer. Tie the plant to a trellis or wire framework as needed. It might be worth the money to have a professional take charge of this gorgeous plant and tame it into the showpiece it should be.

But if you feel strongly about moving it, the best time is in the late fall or very early spring. Water it well the day before it is moved. Trim the top, so you can access the roots with a shovel and without scratching your face, then carefully dig up the roots. Take as much of the root ball as possible. Trimming the top also will help compensate for the root loss. A large root ball is heavy, so you get help moving it.

Replant it immediately in a prepared hole, setting the plant at the same depth as it grew before. Water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets, then mulch with several inches of organic mulch placed over the root area but not touching the canes. Keep the soil evenly moist — but not wet -- until the plant is re-established; this could take a year or two. You might see reduced bloom until the plant is re-established in its new location.

I'm anxious to start my garden. I've set a target date of April 15 for planting this year. Also I have some tomato seed left from last year's not-very-productive garden. Should I use that seed, or get new seed?

I want to start planting earlier this year. When do you think tomato seeds should be started so I can have them ready to plant in April?

It is easy to understand your enthusiasm, but April 15 is a bit too early. Most tomato seed will be ready in about six to eight weeks, but in Southwest Washington, they wouldn't want to go into the ground yet.

I'd be only guessing at the success of the leftover seed. If you had stored it properly, you might get a fairly good germination rate, but it's hard to tell. Because you are anxious to get going, you might not want to gamble on old seed's success; that would set you back if there was a low germination rate.

April is too early to setting out a hot-weather lover such as a tomato. This plant will not grow and prosper in cold soil. If it does not die in the cold ground of April, it would be stunted and might never recover. If you had access to a greenhouse, you might be able to pull that off. I expect to have some tomatoes going in my greenhouse at that time.

There are many things can grow like mad for you in April. Look to cold weather veggies: lettuce, radishes, spinach, peas, carrot, cabbage and broccoli. That should keep you busy until the soil warms and the night air temperature is consistently more than 50 degrees each morning.

I'm sure now I'll hear from hard-working gardeners who make it their spring challenge to get tomatoes going outside early with many heroic efforts and various hardware, plastic things, row covers, etc., that work for them. Not me; I'm into waiting for Mother Nature to help me out.

My wife found a treasure trove of old garden tools at a yard sale this past fall. She is excited about using "heirloom tools" as she had planned to plant a lot of heirloom plants next spring. The tools are pretty rusted and need new handles. My wife says cleaning them and getting them ready for her to use will be a fun project for me this winter. She says I could make the handles out of brush and shrubs that grow in the backyard; she says that's how farmers did it in early days. I don't even know how handles should be fastened to the tool.

Wouldn't I do better to hire someone to do this job? Would they do this kind of work in a hardware store?

Wow, that's some winter project! I really don't think a hardware store has the personal or time, or would be equipped to do this job, but you could call around. However, you might look in newspaper ads, on craigslist.com and a few other places to see if you can find someone advertising to perform odd jobs. I rather doubt they would want to put homemade handles into garden tools.

Most replacement handles at hardware stores are of designed to fit the tool and the user. If you want a good tool, pre-made replacement are worth the money. Even if you do the job yourself, you would be getting into some expense if you purchased new replacement handles for all of them. It might be more cost effective to replace the tool.

You could make homemade handles for the antique tools and use them as decoration on the outside of a shed or other outbuilding. That would make a handsome period display for your wife's gardening efforts. Good luck

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