Ask the Gardening Expert



How and when do I trim raspberry canes?

There are two types of red raspberries grown in home gardens in Western Washington: summer-bearing and the so-called everbearing kind.

The summer- or June-bearing types such as "Sumner," "Meeker," "Willamette," and "Chilliwack" should have their spent fruiting canes or stems removed soon after harvest is complete. They should be cut off right at the soil line.

Sometime in late January or February, the new, or primocanes, which grew the previous summer, should be topped at about 5 feet. Some growers don't bother to prune these canes back; they simply bend them over and tie them to the uppermost trellis wire. Both of these procedures ensure plenty of lateral branching for easy picking.

Everbearing cultivars such as "Heritage," "Autumn Bliss," "Summit" and "Fall Gold" are treated somewhat differently, because the primocanes flower and fruit not only during the fall of the first season, but then again the following June. The top half of the canes are usually pruned in late fall after they have finished producing fruit. The lower half of each cane is allowed to remain to fruit the following June.

Some growers advocate cutting the canes at ground level in late fall after production ceases. This, of course, eliminates the following June's crop. The rationale for this centers on the fact that the fall fruit is so superior to the summer crop that it isn't worth allowing the plants to direct so much energy into inferior June fruit.

Check with the master gardeners for the latest information on disease-resistant varieties that do well in our area.

Reach them by phone or email at or 360-397-6060, ext.5711.

Why do onions go to seed instead of developing into large bulbs onions?

Onions take two seasons to develop into large bulbs that we like for using in our cooking and fresh eating.

If you plant seed, the first year you will be getting green onions or scallions as you thin out to make room for the bulbs to increase in size. They do not do well when crowded.

They then winter over. In spring, they'll begin to grow into larger bulbs.

Spacing is important to the development of bulbs. If you plant seed, you'll need to harvest the onions in between, allowing approximately three inches to four inches between them, so going into the next year, you'll have room to grow into the size you desire.

The small transplant onions are the easiest and far more productive. In the Pacific Northwest, they are nearly trouble-free, because they are well-rooted and ready to spring into life. The most popular variety you'll find here are the Walla Walla Sweets.

It's not uncommon for some transplants to bolt, or go to seed, by midsummer. They are finished and will not grow further. These are also ones you will harvest for the table.

My sister brought me some lilac starts. She lives in cold Eastern Oregon. She brought them at Thanksgiving. It is early December as I write this, and it is cold, but not as cold as it is where she lives.

Should I keep starts inside until spring or should I plant them now?

Lilacs are cold-tolerant, and they bloom best when they're subjected to a pronounced winter chill.

Plant your lilac starts now in a sunny spot with well-draining soil.

They'll be just fine in the winter and will produce new foliage in the spring.

Don't expect your lilacs to bloom for five to seven years after transplanting, though. They need time to mature before they can produce their lovely, fragrant blossoms!

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to