Questions and Answers

Gardening Maple Valley WA

What is Dead Heading?

Dead heading is the act of removing spent flowers from a seasonal plant.  When a flowering shrub or perennial is producing many flowers the plant is putting all of its growing energy into flower production. Once it is done flowering it returns to more leaf and root growth. Some plants need to be dead headed to continue blooming ( roses & dahlias) and sometimes it is best to dead head as some flower buds will attract bugs ( rhododendrons & azaleas ). Usually we deadhead to clean up the plant as our eyes are always drawn to whatever is dead in the garden. It often signifies the end of that particular plant’s seasonal show and time to focus on the other flowers coming into bloom. Iris and Peonies have beautiful and interesting flowers and foliage so once they are done flowering you can dead head them but their foliage still serves a purpose in the garden.


What is the difference between an Evergreen and Deciduous plant ?

Evergreen plants retain their leaves year round. They do shed old leaves as new leaves come out, but they always have leaves on the stem. Some examples of evergreens : Laurel, Rhododendron, Arbutus, Conifers.

Deciduous plants lose their leaves in the fall and their stems are bare all winter. In the spring they sprout out new leaves which they retain all season. In the fall the leaves change color and create a grand display of color. Some examples of deciduous plants: Japanese Maple, Burning Bush, Fruit Trees, Smoke Bush, Barberry, Dogwood.

What is the Difference between Annuals & Perennials ?

Annuals are plants that will only survive in a given climate, or zone, for one season. We usually plant annuals in the spring and they grow, bloom and produce fruit until the first frost. Some examples of annuals : Geraniums, Lobelia, Calibrachoa, Tomatoes, Begonias & Petunias.

Perennials on the other hand, die back in the winter and return in the spring. They usually grow bigger every year and often need to be divided. Perennials serve many purposes in the garden with so many varieties of foliage and flowers, growing in sun or shade, creating height or ground cover. Some examples of perennials : Rudbeckia,Hosta,Clematis,Daisy,Aster,Peony.

What is the difference between Mulch, Bark and Compost?

Bark and Compost are both mulches but mulch is not necessarily compost or bark. Mulching is a term that refers to covering the root base of plants to help retain moisture, fertilize and aid in preventing weeds. The variety of plant material along with your visual expectations should determine what type of mulch you use. Compost is a very fresh green mulch which is very high in nutrients. It is also actively decomposing and becomes soil very quickly. Once spread, 5 yards of compost quickly shrinks to 2.5 yards. That shrinkage has been eaten up by the plants growing in it. So your 2.5 ‘tall tomato plant is now 5’ tall. So, compost is great for vegetable and flower gardens.

Bark is the byproduct of woody plant material. If Compost is the greenery of the plants, Bark is the stems, trunks and branches of plants. Bark provides a cover for established shrubs and trees. It can be used as a low impact or temporary path or walkway. Bark eventually decomposes but at a much slower rate than compost.

There are many types of mulches which combine different materials. Sawdust, manures, sand and peat are some of the most common ingredients we find in mulch.

Why does my lawn have so much moss and how do I get rid of it?

Our climate provides the perfect set of growing conditions for moss to grow. Lawns that maintain more than 4 hours of shade during the day are prime candidates as moss prefers shade and moisture. During the late summer, if you choose not to water your lawn that is planted in full sun, the grass will begin to go dormant or die off creating another prime candidate for moss growing. This dying out of the grass allows for pockets of empty space as fall arrives.

The cool temperatures and rain allow the moss to grow into the areas where the grass is sparse and continues to thrive over the winter. As soon as the temperatures in the spring begin to rise the moss begins to turn yellow and dies off in too much sun or drought. Yet only the surface is actually dying off. The roots are alive and waiting for the fall and winter growing conditions to arrive. The other result of letting your sunny lawn go dormant in late summer, is that these empty patches are havens for weed seeds which can grow well in moss and without water. So after a few seasons you have a weed and moss infested lawn.

Eliminating moss in a mostly shady area requires continuous use of iron (Moss Killer) and re-seeding at 3-week intervals. Grass will only grow in the shade if its 90 degrees or above and it will still be sparse and leggy. Many people choose to remove lawns in shady areas and replant with beautiful shade tolerant plants.

Eliminating moss in sunny areas requires using Moss Killer or a fertilizer that is high in iron in the spring and reseeding as soon as the moss is gone. It is essential to fill the mossy areas with lots of seed. Repeating this every 6-8 weeks during the growing season will promote thick grass that will prevent moss from creeping into your lawn. Iron also enhances the rich green color in grass. Continuing a water program throughout the late summer will prevents those spots from drying out.

When is the best time to re-seed my lawn?

Lawn seed sprouts when temperatures reach 55 degrees. In the Pacific Northwest we usually begin to experience 55 degrees during the day in late March or early April. It is ideal to spread seed as soon as the temperatures reach 55 degrees at night as well as the day. This may not happen until later April or early May. Seed also requires constant moisture to germinate so we like to take advantage of spring rains and 55 degrees (or above) to spread seed. Your seeds should sprout within 7-14 days. After sprouting you want to wait at least 3 weeks before you mow or disturb your new grass. You also need to water thoroughly for 3 weeks if it isn’t raining enough to keep the soil moist.