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News / Clark County News

Ask the gardening expert

The Columbian
Published: December 11, 2013, 4:00pm

I found this email from a reader interesting and well worth passing along:

I just read your latest gardening column in which you mention various deciduous conifers. I recently cut down two large dawn redwood trees that were 100 feet tall and 30-plus years old. The previous property owner planted these trees 50 feet from the house, but probably did not understand their effect on the yard and house. After noticing cracks in the foundation wall, garage floor and driveway buckling I was forced to remove them. They have a robust root system.

I do miss them, however, unlike tree leaves, the annual deluge of millions of tiny needles and cones will not be missed. It would be helpful to others if you mentioned this little considered effect of deciduous conifers. The dawn redwoods, much like their cousins, need a large area and should not be considered for residential landscaping in my opinion.

Yours is a good point, an obvious one too, but one I didn’t consider, since I would never recommend a conifer tree or large shrub of any variety on the immediate proximity of a home due to fire potential (I might think of a dwarf landscape type, but certainly not conifer trees).

Our home is in the timber-heavy area northeast of Battle Ground. We fear fire each year, so I missed mentioning in the column the problems of large conifers close to a house. I will now though, so thank you!

Sorry you needed to remove the tree, but that’s part of have a home landscape — removing anything that lost it’s charm in the eyes of the homeowner. Your redwood got too big, with its out of bounds roots. It’s hard to like a plant that is presenting a problem. I hope the damage is not too great, and you can repair it. Thanks for your email.

I read online that spinach is an easy vegetable to grow and harvest in winter. I hope you could tell me how to get started. I cannot find the site again, but his name was something like Willy Evans. Do you know of that garden person?

Yes, it is an easy one to grow, but you would have needed to start it in late summer/early fall. Once established it will take cold weather as well as most other winter vegetables (carrots, chard, etc.)

No, I didn’t know of that author until now. I took a look on the Internet regarding this topic and I’ve seen a vast number of helpful entries on this subject.

Where to start? I’ll give you what I think I may have been the site you saw: I found Willi Evans Galloway (He/she?) was the first article when I looked up overwintering spinach. The article is called (of all things) “Overwintering Spinach”.

The site gives a list of cold-tolerant spinach varieties, such as ‘Giant Wintecer’ and ‘Tyee’. They overwinter best if the plants are 3 to 4 inches wide by the time night temperatures start to dip toward freezing. Give the plants time to reach this size by sowing the seed 6 weeks before the average first-frost date. Spinach seed often suffers from spotty germination when planted in late summer and fall due to warm, dry soil conditions. We did experience some late fall warmer-than-average days, and nights too. Boost germination rates by cooling the soil the week before sowing by watering the bed well and then place a burlap sack over the soil to shade it.

Spinach does best when growing in moist, nitrogen-rich soil. Spinach plants form a deep taproot; for best growth, loosen the soil at least 1 foot deep before planting.

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In the spring, sow spinach seed as early as 6 weeks before the last frost or as soon as you can work the soil. Prepare the soil the previous autumn, and you can drop the seeds in barely thawed ground. Cover with several inches of straw as insolation. Once the days begin to lengthen and daytime temperatures consistently rise above freezing, remove the straw a little at time over a period of a few weeks until all the straw has been removed.

In areas with a long, cool spring, make successive plantings every 10 days until mid-May. Kick-start growth by spraying plants with diluted fish emulsion. Begin harvesting leaves regularly when the plants actively put out new growth.

I find that vegetable growing advice on the internet is a valuable resource, but we should remember it is someone’s take on successes in their experience, namely, their opinion. If I want opinion, it’s best to get it locally, and with a source that is one-on-one where I can ask questions along the way. So the best advice I can give you is to contact the master gardener office.(360-397-6060, ext. 5711) Theirs is the most valuable advice since it is current, accurate and local, and I trust their advice over all others.

All gardeners would do well to have the master gardeners look into any garden question they may have.

The heater in my greenhouse failed last year while I was in Florida, I was disappointed since I had a huge coleus from several years ago. A beautiful nasturtium looks nearly dead. I can see a tiny bit of green at the bottom, do you think it is worth the trouble trying to save them?

If it were me, I wouldn’t bother since they are easy to replace plants, both are very sensitive to cold weather and it doesn’t take long for tender plants to freeze to death when temperatures are too cold.

Since you say there is a bit of green at the base, you might try, since it sounds as if the roots may have survived. Especially since the nasturtium and impatiens like growing in cool temperatures. I can only suggest that you cut off the obviously dead plant tops and wait to see if the roots are healthy enough to send up new sprouts.

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