5 Garden Questions You're Afraid to Ask

Maybe there are no dumb questions, but some may seem so basic you hesitate to ask. Relax--you're not alone (and if you read the answers here, no one will know).

1. Do I have to prune my shrubs?

No. Pruning (left) is for aesthetic purposes. Shrubs growing in nature thrive with little or no pruning. The pruning they receive is rough at best and performed by browsing animals as well as ice and snowstorms. If you like the look of a neatly clipped shrub, the best time to trim spring-flowering shrubs is right after the plant blooms or in early spring; trim summer-flowering shrubs in late winter or very early spring while the plants are still dormant.

2. an I plant as soon as the weather warms up?

You can plant cool-season annuals and vegetables such as peas and lettuce when there's still a threat of frost, says Chip Tynan of the Missouri Botanical Garden. But hold off on warm-season annuals and vegetables, such as tomatoes (left), until your area's frost-free date. (Get the date from a local extension office.)

You can plant most potted perennials, trees and shrubs anytime the soil is workable--even late fall. "As long as the ground isn't frozen and we are not in the grip of a desperate drought, you can plant container plants," Chip says.

3. What's a super-easy veggie my kids can grow?

Try 'Matt's Wild Cherry' cherry tomato, 'Purple Haze' carrot (left), 'Easter Egg' and 'Fairy Tale' eggplant or any variety of leaf lettuce. Easy-to-grow, nutrient-packed and tasty, these vegetables are sure to please.

4. A shovel is a shovel, right? Are they really different?

A long-handled, round-point shovel (left) is a multitasker, just as good for moving gravel piles as digging holes. Look for a blade attached solidly to the handle with a metal shank that wraps around the entire handle (called a "closed-back" shovel).

Wood handles are fine for light work, such as shoveling mulch. Choose fiberglass for tough tasks such as digging or moving soil.

5. Will leftover seeds grow next year?

Yes, most likely. Store leftover seeds (left) in a cool, dark place until next season. Next year, in early spring, check their viability with this test: Place 20 seeds between two sheets of moist paper towels and put the towels in a plastic bag. Loosely tie the bag and place it in a warm area. Check for germination, or growth, after 10 days. If fewer than 14 seeds (about 70 percent) germinated, toss them out and purchase new seed.

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