» Archive for June, 2008

Roses in the Garden

Friday, June 27th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • When fuchsia blooms fade remove the whole flower stem to prevent it from developing seed pods which reduces continued blooming.
    • Water lawns deeply, preferably in the early morning hours. Set mower blade to the highest position to reduce moisture loss during the summer.
    • Fertilize container plants every 10 to 14 days with a liquid fertilizer. Pinch off faded blossoms and they will keep blooming all summer for you.
    • Stake or cage tomato plants before they get any larger.
    • Petunias, in bright pink, red and purple, will add beauty and color to sunny borders all through the summer.

Cascades of Flowers from Climbing Roses

Few sights are as spectacular as a climbing rose in full bloom covering the side of a house like a grand tapestry, or merrily rambling along a picket fence in a cloud of color and fragrance. Since climbing roses can take several years to reach maturity, and since they are often key elements in the overall scheme of the garden, it’s important to start out with the best rose to succeed in your garden.

Today there are many different types of climbing roses available from heirloom roses to modern AARS winners. They also vary in how far they will climb or trail. Some plants top out at 8 feet, while others can easily climb to 20 feet or more. Flower types also vary from the simplicity of single blooms with only five petals to the full-bodied roses of the climbing hybrid tea roses.

Climbing roses are not true climbers. They grow just as other roses do, only with longer canes. Since they have no means of twining or attaching themselves to trellises, they must be helped along by tying them to supports with twine.

For most climbing roses, you will get the best display of flowers by training the long canes horizontally. Flowering shoots grow from these canes and will bloom once or several times through the summer. One of the best roses to train along a fence is Climbing All Ablaze. It has an abundance of bright red flowers with a spicy fragrance over a long season. Good disease resistance makes this an excellent choice to cover fences or walls.

A wonderful use of a rose climber is to cover an arbor over a garden gate. Eight-foot tall trellises on each side of the gate and an arbor overhead create the support for a massive cascade of flowers. Climbing Cecile Brunner, the “Sweetheart” rose, with its petite, pink flowers, is a classic rose for this situation. Its profuse spring bloom is always a delight.

The most recent climber to win the AARS award is ‘Fourth of July.’ This lovely rose has red and white striped flowers that are delightfully fragrant. It blooms and reblooms readily so that it is in bloom most of the summer. Its canes reach 10 to 14 feet and it is a very hardy rose with excellent disease resistance.

The lovely Climbing Sally Holmes bears its white flowers in huge clusters that look like rhododendron blooms. A soft apricot when they open, they age to ivory white. It is very free flowering.

Joseph’s Coat is a large-flowered climber that changes colors from yellow to orange to reds. It produces masses of multicolored blooms in the spring, slows down during the heat of summer, then comes back with an even more stunning show in early fall, and has a lovely fragrance.

Surround your garden with roses by using climbers to decorate fences and arbors with their lovely colors and fragrances.

Insects in the Garden

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, which has the natural, bacteria-based spinosad added to the original iron phosphate formula.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out now.

Helping the Good Bugs

Not all bugs are bad bugs. In fact there are many bugs that don’t eat plants at all, they feed on other insects. By encouraging these beneficial insects, you can maintain a natural balance in your garden and reduce damage done by insect pests with a minimum of pesticide sprays.

Insects that feed on other insects are divided into two types, the predators and the parasites. Predators move around looking for plant feeders such as aphids, mites and caterpillars. Lacewing larvae and ladybug larvae and adults aggressively devour aphid populations. Ground beetles prey on a variety of ground-dwelling pests like cutworms, root maggots and slug eggs.

Parasites are insects that develop in the bodies of other “host” insects. Most parasites are tiny wasps or flies whose larvae eat other insects from within. Tiny parasitoid wasps are aggressive beyond their size when it comes to pursuing aphids and caterpillars. They provide a very effective means of insect control.

These various beneficial insects consume large numbers of pest insects, but their diets are not limited to other insects. In fact, many of the beneficial species have periods in their life cycles when they survive only on nectar and pollen. So by planting a variety of insect-attracting plants you can keep beneficial insects going strong.

There are two plant groups that are particularly attractive to beneficial insects. They are the parsley or carrot family and the daisy or sunflower family. Most beneficial insects have short mouthparts and cannot reach far into a flower for nectar and pollen. The small flowers on these plants put pollen and nectar within reach of these tiny insects.

The carrot family includes many herbs such as anise, dill, fennel, and cilantro and vegetables such as carrots, parsley and celery. The flowers of these plants are arranged in clusters called umbels which are shaped like an umbrella. They produce large amounts of nectar as well as shelter for insect-feeding insects, another critical requirement. To take advantage of their nectar, you just let a few of your carrot, parsley and celery plants go to seed.

The sunflower family is the largest family of flowers on the planet. These “flowers” are actually made up of dozens or hundreds of tiny flowers clustered together. This family includes yarrows, marigolds, zinnias, asters, calendulas, chrysanthemums, cosmos and many more. While these plants have less nectar than those of the parsley family, the flowers last a long time, and with planning, you can have some in bloom throughout the growing season.

Alyssum, borage, statice, various clovers and yarrows also attract parasitoid and predatory insects. Low-growing plants, such as thyme, rosemary, or mint, provide shelter for ground beetles and other beneficial insects.

Get to know what the good bugs look like and lure them to your garden by growing these attractive flowers. In a few years, you may find that you just don’t need insecticides any more.

“Let the good earth produce.”

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • The “Wave” petunias make wonderful hanging baskets for full sun. They come in purple, bright pink, reddish-purple and pale “misty lilac.” They can also be used for a colorful summer ground cover.
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.

The Good Earth

Dirt gets no respect. When we’re not ignoring it, we’re walking on it, or doing our best to wash it off. Look up ‘dirt’ in the dictionary and you’ll find words like filth, grime, and muck.

You might even say that dirt gets treated like, well dirt. But gardeners know better. Gardeners give dirt the reverence it deserves, because they know that the right soil can make the difference between sparse, sickly plants and a thriving bumper crop.

The stuff we call dirt—more formally, soil—is actually made up of two distinct types of material: minerals (the main ingredient) and much smaller amounts of organic matter (living things and their decaying remains).

A typical soil is over 90 percent mineral, made of tiny fragments of broken-down rock, and less than 10 percent organic matter. Good soil is a mixture of clay (to retain water), sand (to drain water), and organic material (for nutrients).

Soil is alive. It is full of useful bacteria and fungi, which turn organic matter into useful humus, and make nutrients available to plants. Healthy soil is home to earthworms who eat decaying vegetation, and excrete worm castings that are rich in plant nutrients. In the process they aerate the soil allowing water and air to penetrate to the roots of plants.

If you find it necessary to grow your vegetables in containers in order to keep them on your deck away from the deer, for example, then you’ll need to fill your containers with potting soil. Garden soil just doesn’t work well in containers. It doesn’t drain well enough and it tends to pull away from the sides of the pot when dry.

Most potting soils are made up largely of peat moss, bark, and perlite. They may also include compost, vermiculite, sand and crushed lava rock. So potting soil isn’t really soil at all.

Actually, “soilless” potting soil helps make an interesting point: You don’t really need soil to grow plants. Hydroponic gardeners grow plants using only nutrient-rich water. In place of soil, inert substances such as perlite may be used to provide aeration and structural support for roots.

Modern potting soils are excellent at providing the support and nutrients needed for healthy plant growth. But potting soils are not sustainable. Sustainable gardening produces abundant food without depleting the earth’s resources or polluting its environment. Filling containers with potting soil to grow your vegetables is not sustainable, unless you are making your own potting soil from your own materials.

Sustainable gardening means not requiring outside inputs. It means working with the dirt in your garden to improve it so that it will sustain healthy plants year after year. If you can only do one activity in preparing or maintaining your garden for lasting results, then creating healthy soil is it.

“Let the good earth produce.”