Vegetable Planting Time

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009 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.
    • Rhododendrons are in full bloom now. Choose plants now for spectacular blooms in your shade garden.
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.
    • Alpine asters, columbine, sea pinks and Tiny Rubies dianthus are outstanding plants for spring bloom in the perennial border.

    • Ladybugs are a big help with aphids in your greenhouse or garden. Release at dusk in problem areas.

Cool as a Cucumber

For a heat-loving summer vegetable, cucumbers are about as “cool” as they come. Originally from the hot, dry regions of Asia and Africa, the crisp, white flesh of cucumbers have always seemed refreshing. Now a staple of summer salads in this country, this is one vegetable that should be in every garden.

Cucumbers are climbing vines that are easy to grow. There are many different varieties from the ever popular, round, yellow lemon cucumbers to long and thin slicers. Cucumbers are usually divided into two groups: the smaller, faster growing varieties used for pickling and the longer varieties used for slicing.

There are also “burpless” varieties and “yard-long” Armenians, both with non-bitter skin that you can eat. In addition to fresh eating, cucumbers can be preserved by pickling them, an art which is centuries old. You can pickle any small cucumber, and enjoy them that way all winter long.

Cucumbers will grow well in most good garden soils. They like warm weather and at least 8 hours of sun a day. Since cucumbers are 95 percent water, they need long, deep drinks of water to grow fruit that is not bitter. Temperatures above 100°F can cause bitterness or stop fruit production.

When planting, add compost to your garden soil and use a complete organic fertilizer, like fish emulsion, to help get your cucumbers off to a good start and provide nutrition throughout their growing season. When the vines are about a foot long, side dress with compost or fertilizer which should take effect just as the plants blossom. Stand back and wait for an abundant crop of cool cucumbers.

Most varieties of cucumbers are vines, and they love to climb! Try growing them on a trellis. Cucumbers grown on trellises tend to produce healthier fruits, which are uniform in size and shape, and 2-3 times more cucumbers. They are also cleaner at harvest time and the air circulation provided by the trellis helps prevent diseases.

Trellising cucumbers frees up space in the garden, and you can plant lettuces or other greens under the trellis in the shade provided by the growing vines. Plant the vines 18 inches apart. Cucumbers grown on the ground need more space, so plant them 36 inches apart and space the rows at least two feet apart.

Cucumbers need plenty of water to be juicy and crisp. Plants that do not get enough water produce small, bitter, deformed fruits. Soak the soil deeply when you water.

Pick cucumbers frequently when they are young and tender. The goal of a cucumber vine is to set seeds and if even one fruit is allowed to mature, the whole vine will quit producing. Gently twist or clip off the fruits being careful not to break the vines.

Cucumber vines are not heavy producers, except for lemon cucumbers which share their abundance all at one time! Expect 1 to 3 pounds per plant, so you may want 6 plants per person, if you are going to make pickles, and 2 plants per person for fresh fruit only.

Plant cucumbers now for delicious, cool fruit this summer.

The Rose Garden

Monday, February 11th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Blueberries are a delicious fruit that can be planted now from bare-root plants. Give them a rich, acid bed prepared with lots of peat moss.
    • Plant seeds of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other spring vegetables now.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Plant strawberries now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.
    • It’s bare root season, which means you can save money on fruit trees and roses by planting them now. A wide selection is now available.

Training Climbing Roses

Roses give more color in the garden than any other shrub. Climbing roses will brighten up a wall or fence all summer long. Here are some basic tips for growing them.

Climbers can be planted now from bare root roses or any time during the growing season from potted plants. Any structure that will be supporting the rose should be in place before planting. Angle the canes toward the support.

Young climbers, under 2 or 3 years old, should be pruned as little as possible, or not at all. In the first year, a climber will send up 2 or 3 long canes and more in succeeding years. These canes will be left long, not pruned each year. The side shoots that come off these long canes are the flower producers and they will be cut back each year to 2 or 3 buds.

If there is poor branching, the main canes can be tipped to encourage strong side branches to develop, which will become part of the main framework. When old, weak canes need to be removed, cut back to a healthy shoot or bud at the base. This will encourage the growth of a new cane to replace the one removed.

Climbing roses are generally broken down into two categories, once-blooming and repeat-blooming. Once-blooming roses bloom gloriously, but only once a year in the spring, and they bloom on wood from the previous year. Prune these roses right after flowering is finished. Repeat-blooming climbers are pruned in the winter or very early spring when the plants are dormant.

Climbing roses do not really climb. They have no means of supporting themselves, so they must be tied to a fence or a trellis. The most basic method for training them is in a fan pattern. Train the outer stems as near to the horizontal as possible, then fan out the other canes to fill in the rest of the fan shape. Tie them loosely to the support to allow for thickening of the stems.

Arches look lovely clothed with roses. For even coverage, plant a rose at the base of each side. Train them on the outside by fanning out the main stems to cover the width of the arch.

Pergolas (tunnels made out of latticework) are designed for a display of flowers higher up. Plant a rose at each post. Roses can be trained to grow up the post and then horizontally over the cross beams. So prune the side shoots to push the growth upwards, then let the rose branch naturally over the top. Or you can train roses with flexible stems to spiral up the posts.

Climbing roses produce hundreds of flowers every summer bringing pleasure and beauty to the garden.