Question: I have a very large galvanized livestock trough that I want to use as a planter at our property in Cashmere, WA. It's about 6' long and about 3' high and deep. My question is this - Do I fill the planter with potting soil (that is A LOT of potting soil!), or do I fill bottom with something like bagged styrofoam (already have saved a bunch that I haven't run down to Ikea)/netting/something earth-friendlier and then top with potting soil? Since it is so large, can I put regular garden soil in bottom perhaps and potting soil on top layer? How did you do yours?Thanks,
Answer: I hate to tell you, but to facilitate drainage you should use good potting soil - and only good potting soil - to fill your trough. And yes, it's a lot of soil, and it'll shrink some over the first few winters so be prepared to top off with a few more inches of soil each spring.
Here's the thing - if you use styrofoam noodles, or even pebbles or crummy old soil towards the bottom of your trough, when the water filters down through the soil on top and reaches a different medium it'll puddle up. It's like you've constructed a water barrier where the two mediums meet. And soggy soil means decline and even death for most plants. I use potting soil the full depth of every one of my raised beds and troughs, on advice from WSU horticulturists, and it makes all the difference for plant health. Wish I could recommend a less expensive solution, but no go...
Question: After a January that Cliff Mass says was the warmest ever, and continuing El Nino weather, can I prune roses and hydrangeas yet? I'm itching to finish cleaning up my garden, as the bulbs are all coming up and the hellebores are in bloom.
Answer: The weather is seductive, but try to leave your hydrangeas, roses and hardy fuchsias alone for a few more weeks. They could suffer a setback if temperatures plunged after you pruned them. Chances are the balmy weather will carry us on into spring, but why take the chance? It's isn't unusual to have a hard freeze toward the end of February, and the last frost date isn't until the second or third week of March, depending on just where you live. Take a look at photos of the snowbound east coast to remember there's more than a month of unpredictable Old Man Winter left to weather. .