» Archive for March, 2016

Colorful Beets, from Top to Bottom

Friday, March 11th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies and violas will fill your spring flower beds with their bright faces in many shades of blue, yellow, red, pink and purple.
    • Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and other cool season crops should be planted this month for delicious spring harvests.
    • Plant potatoes! St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day to plant potatoes, so the season is upon us now.
    • Prune Hydrangeas now by removing old flower heads down to the first new leaves. Don’t prune stems which have no old flowers, and they will bloom first this summer.
    • Apple trees are still available as bare-root trees, but only for a short while longer. Start your orchard now!

Colorful Beets, from Top to Bottom

Beets are among the most healthful vegetables you can grow; both the roots and the greens are good sources of vitamins. Beets come in a bright array of colors, from garnet red to red-and-white striped to deep gold to creamy white. But the real hidden treasure is that the entire beet, from its robust and flavorful root to its buttery green top, is sweet and delicious.

You can choose from a variety of root flavors, colors, and shapes. If flavor were judged solely on sweetness, the hands-down winner would be the all-white ‘Albina Vereduna’. This close relative of the sugar beet contains 11 percent sugar, about twice that of red beets.

But some sweet, flavorful red varieties also stand out. ‘Detroit Dark Red’ is an old variety with rich, dark-red, 3-inch roots. ‘Bull’s Blood’ is very sweet and delicious and has deep reddish-purple leaves that are colorful in salads. The beets are tasty and have pretty pink rings inside. ‘Shiraz Tall Top’ has smooth, uniform red roots with strong, green, fast-growing tops.

For a color variation, try ‘Golden’, with bright yellow flesh and a sweet potato-like flavor, or the heirloom ‘Chioggia’, featuring red-and-white-striped flesh with a rosy pink skin and sweet flavor.

Not all beet roots are large and round. ‘Cylindra’ has cylindrical, purple-red roots. Tender and sweet, it produces lots of uniform slices. Large, oblong, golden-yellow ‘Mangel’ beets are sweet and tasty if picked small, or let them mature for high-quality stock feed. They can grow to 10-20 pounds by fall.

If beet greens are your true passion, plant ‘Tall Top Early Wonder’, with maroon-tinged leaves and purplish red, round roots. Greens can be eaten like spinach or Swiss chard. They can be tossed in salads or used in quick stir fries.

To grow sweet, tender beets plant them in cool, moist weather in the fall or early spring. Work aged manure or compost into the top 8 inches of the soil. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1 inch apart. Thin seedlings to stand 1½ to 2 inches apart 10 to 14 days after emergence. A month later thin plants to about 4 inches apart. For beet greens only, sow seeds 1/2 inch apart in all directions. No thinning is necessary.

Beet roots are ready to harvest in 40 to 55 days, when they are the size of golf balls. Greens can be harvested as soon as they are large enough to eat, when the leaves are 4 to 6 inches long. To harvest, pull-up the entire plant.

For best quality beets, keep the soil moist at all times. Mulch the plants if the weather is hot or dry. If you have trouble with flea beetles, cover your plants with floating row cover (Remay).

Young roots taste great lightly steamed, shredded and sautéed in butter, or pickled. Baking is ideal for any larger roots you missed, and beets small and large can be roasted to bring out their delicate, yet earthy flavor. Enjoy these delicious, nutritious vegetables fresh from your own garden this season.

Marvelous New Roses

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Spring vegetables can be planted now from nursery starts. Begin your garden with broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, chard and onions. It pays to grow your own!
    • Potatoes can be planted this month. Plant red, white, yellow and russet for a variety of uses and flavors.
    • Plant bright and cheery primroses to brighten your flower beds and boxes.
    • Pluots are a cross between plums and apricots. Their meaty fruit has a wonderful flavor. Bare root trees can be planted now.
    • Prune wisteria trees and vines by cutting out unwanted long runners and removing old seed pods. Don’t damage flower buds that are clustered at the end of short branches.

Marvelous New Roses

Although the All-America Rose Selection (AARS) program has been discontinued, as of 2014, there are still many fine new rose introductions each year. Weeks Roses is one of the primary rose breeders today and each year they introduce several fine roses.

Happy Go Lucky™ is one of the new roses this year from Weeks Roses, and this rose has it all. The big, fragrant, pure yellow blossoms have all the charm of an old-fashioned English rose. Add to that excellent disease resistance and rich green foliage that sets off the 6-inch flowers, and you have one winning rose. This grandiflora will delight you with flowers all season long.

Miss Congeniality™ is another beautiful grandiflora rose. After 14 years of research, the experts at Weeks got this rose just right! Perfectly shaped buds cover this extremely disease-resistant plant all season. When they open, you’ll be treated to clusters of large, breathtaking blooms with strong pink edging. It is quick to rebloom and has a pleasing fragrance.

Pretty Lady Rose™ is one of the Downton Abbey® hybrid tea roses. As vibrant as her namesake, this rose has a high petal count that creates big, showy, ruffled blooms with a sweet fragrance. The rich, rose-pink flowers retain their large size even in summer’s heat. This rose is extremely disease-resistant and easy to care for. It is one of a new group of roses called ‘landscape roses’, which are exceptionally long-blooming and carefree.

The fiery redddish-orange, 3 to 4 inch blooms of Smokin’ Hot™ hybrid tea rose have a white reverse, a smoky purple overlay and a wonderful fragrance that hints of tea and spice. The young foliage emerges burgundy maturing to a deep lustrous green with hints of red burning at the edges. Produced singly on long stems, cut them for the vase any you’ll have an outstanding arrangement.

Tuscan Sun is a tidy floribunda growing 3-4 feet tall. Its clusters of deep apricot buds open into spectacular high-centered bronze blossoms that mature to lovely coppery pink flowers. The strong straight stems are 12”-14” long, and the spice-scented flowers last exceptionally well in the vase. This generous bloomer is a wonderful garden plant with a fine, well-branched habit and highly disease resistant foliage.

Roses need at least 6 hours of sun each day. Select a location that is free from tree roots and has good drainage. New roses should be watered twice a week, making sure the roots don’t dry out. Established roses only need deep watering once a week to moisten the soil 5 inches deep.

Fertilize new roses with a liquid fertilizer beginning when the growth is about six inches long and repeating every two or three weeks. For established plants, once every three months is sufficient, or use according to instructions on the package.

Like all living plants, roses may be attacked by insects and fungus diseases. Neem oil is a both a fungicide and an insecticide, and should be sprayed on susceptible roses every 10 days through wet spring weather. The newer, highly disease-resistant roses should only need spraying if you see a problem developing.

Take good care of your roses and they will reward you with abundant blooms all season long.

It’s Bare Root Season

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Tulip tree magnolias are in glorious bloom. They can be planted now during the dormant season from balled & burlapped specimens.
    • Cut back suckers on lilac bushes. Wait until they bloom to prune them, then you can bring the fragrant branches indoors.
    • Deciduous Clematis vines can be cut back to about waist height, to encourage bushiness, more flowers and a nicer looking vine. Do this now before the new growth starts.
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Onion plants can be set out now for early summer harvest.

It’s Bare Root Season

Cold nights and short days tell plants that it’s time to hibernate, which, to a plant, means to go into dormancy. Many trees, shrubs and perennials do that by dropping their leaves and storing reserves in their branches and roots through the winter. This is the dormant season and, in the nursery world, it’s the “bare root” season.

When deciduous plants go dormant, they can be dug up and transplanted with minimum shock or damage. In fact, the soil can be washed off their roots and they can be transported great distances in this “bare root” condition. This is the primary way that fruit trees, roses, grapevines, berry vines and many ornamental trees and shrubs are handled.

Because of the ease of harvesting, storing and shipping, this is a very economical way to bring plants to nurseries to sell. Nurseries like to pass along those prices to gardeners. So if you buy them while they are still dormant, before the nursery has to pot them up using soil and containers, the savings are passed on to you.

Trees, especially, are easier to plant when they are bare root. They are much lighter to handle, which is a real advantage if it’s a bit of a walk down to your orchard. You can also buy large shade trees much more economically. The good root structure and opportunity to plant the roots into native soil makes for a high success rate.

Don’t worry that these trees look like twigs at this time of the year, because they’ll soon leaf out and be growing vigorously this spring and summer.

Bare root season also offers the best selection of the year for these plants. Dozens of varieties of fruit trees are available, from favorites like ‘Fuji’ apple, ‘Bing’ cherry and ‘Santa Rosa’ plum to unusual ones like fruiting mulberries and Jujubes. You will find many different kinds of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and kiwi vines, all anxious to be planted in your yard.

There are filberts, chestnuts and walnuts available, that all grow well in our area. And you’ll even find figs and pomegranates to try out in a nice warm spot in the yard.

For the vegetable garden, asparagus roots, rhubarb and artichokes can be planted now. There are many types of mouth-watering strawberries that arrive this time of year. Plant a large bed of them to have luscious berries all spring and summer.

Many ornamentals come in bare root. There are lilacs in a variety of colors and beautiful wisteria vines in pink, purple or white. Roses are now available in every color, shape and fragrance for early planting.

This is also a wonderful time to plant a shade tree. Look for maples, sycamores, redbuds, mulberry trees and lovely mimosas.

It’s an exciting time of the year for plant enthusiasts. But as the weather warms and plants begin to show new life, the bare root season comes rapidly to an end. So don’t wait too long to go shopping for bare root trees and shrubs.