Ask the gardening expert

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I would like to weed-n-feed my lawn, because after winter it looks really awful. I do not know if my lawn is alive. The only things growing are weeds. Should I wait to see if the grass starts greening up? Or do I start my spring maintenance when the weather is warmer?

All of this depends on your expectations for the lawn. Some want a perfect lawn, others a pretty good lawn, and still others want something green in spring and summer.

This sounds to me like you have an unnatural disaster growing in you yard.

If it's as bad as you describe, I'm thinking the best thing to do is start over.

If you hope to have a beautiful healthy lawn, you need to take a realistic look at the soil: is it clay, ruts, rocky, wet, moss growing? All these conditions need attention whether you want an acceptable lawn or perfect lawn. Many people, myself included, feel that weed-and-feed products are not a good choice in the Northwest. The weed part is a strong herbicide containing 2-4-D which is harmful to animals, fish and humans as well as it drifts its way into our waterways. If your lawn is 50 percent weeds, then 50 percent of the chemical is not needed, and runs off to the waterways. Many local governments are calling for a ban on weed-and-feed. My understanding is that Clark County in one of them.

If you want the lawn to grow, use fertilizer. If you want to kill weeds, use a safer product that contains a safe herbicide such as glyphosate (Roundup) which becomes inert on soil contact. It kills green plants, and it neutralizes as it touches soil.

I planted three medium to large flowering cherries fall 2000. They all bloomed beautifully in spring 2001. Some springs they do not bloom at all. At this time they look as if they are sprouting green leaves. Any suggestions?

These trees are fairly reliable bloomers, but last fall our area had some drought stress and some cold snaps in early winter. It is possible that they did not form flower buds last year, or if they did, the buds may have frozen right before opening this last spring. Also take a look at the surrounding plants. Is it possible that you may not have noticed that all the landscape plants in the yard have gradually increased in size to the point that these trees are in shade too much of the day? No sun, no blooms. Another possibility: badly timed pruning could also remove flower buds. In general these trees (and nearly all blooming trees) do not require any routine pruning, but if you feel they do, make sure you do it right after the blooms fade. If you wait, you'll be cutting off next year's forming flower buds.

I've seen the Cecile Brunner climbing rose and like it. I have heard conflicting things about how long it blooms each season. One nursery said it has one heavy bloom in spring and then not much else all summer. Someone else said it actually has one big show in spring and then you see a few roses all through summer, but just not as many. Which is correct? I've heard it's a fast grower and disease-resistant. Is it a good idea to put it on a big wall next to an another climber?

Cecile Brunner is called a repeat bloomer, producing small pink buds throughout the growing season. It's a quick-growing, long-lived rose (introduced in 1881), and relatively disease-resistant. You can plant it near another climbing rose, providing you give both roses plenty of room to grow. Flowers are produced on the shoots that developed on last year's wood. You'll do some selective pruning each year to encourage new blooms, but you won't want to have your climbers too near each other so they become entangled and make pruning difficult. I had Cecile on a pillar by my deck; it wasn't successful there due to too much shade in my yard. As I've said before, blooms need sun!!

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