Care of Roses

Now that Spring is in the air and the soil in our garden is warming up, so the roots of our favourite plants are waking up from a long sleep. It’s time to don the gardening gloves, grab the secateurs, and make sure we give our roses the best possible chance for healthy growth and a long-lasting bloom of flowers in the summer and autumn months ahead.

While rose growers living in warmer climates generally prune over winter; for those people living in a cold climate, April is ideal the time to prune. Wait until the leaf buds begin to swell. For cold climate dwellers, this is also the time to clean up around the base of the bush, removing any old leaves or mulch that was used to protect the bush over winter.

The best time to feed your roses is at pruning time, so for those in cold climates this will be in early spring. Use a good quality all-purpose rose food. For those in warm climates, who pruned and fed their roses over winter, hold off on applying new fertilizer just now. This should be done in early summer.

In early spring it’s important to look out for aphids on new growth. If these tiny green insects appear, clustering on the new growth, use insect spray such as Pyrethrum or Confidor to deter them.

When buds start to appear on your roses, you can apply a foliar feed to encourage them. Try spraying them with Peter’s Multi Purpose Fertilizer or Miracle Gro Multipurpose Fertilizer. If you find any evidence of Black Spot on the leaves of your roses, use a fungicide spray to tackle the problem head on.

As the weather warms up, it pays to mulch well around the base of the plant with a pea straw or lucerne hay. As these mulches break down they add much needed nutrients to the soil, as well as protecting the roots from drying out. You will enjoy a magnificent flush of blooms by mid spring, but keep an eye out for black spot!

As your roses bloom and grow in the warmer weather, a constant deadheading will ensure a steady display of picture perfect roses well into summer and autumn. Now is the time to get out and visit gardens and see other roses in their full glory – a perfect opportunity to make note of all the roses you want to plant in your own garden for next year! Happy gardening!

Invasive Plants of Sedona

Plants that grow out of control or spring up in unwanted spaces are a nuisance to the average gardener. Naïve homeowners who plant these species in the first place unknowingly are creating a potential maintenance headache. Some of these invasive species are so difficult to eradicate completely, that only containment is possible.

The Tree of Heaven or Alianthus is one of the worst culprits to fit the category of invasive plants of Sedona. It is also invasive across the entire United States and is extremely difficult to kill, let alone keep under control. It spreads from seeds that are so prolific and blow through an area, easily germinating in almost any conditions. Once it takes hold, it starts what is called a “colony.”

There are chemicals that are used to both spray the foliage as well as to inject or spray into a wedge cut into the trunk. Personally, I have tried using RoundUp on some small seedlings, but all that does it cause the leaves to wither and not really kill it down to the root. Best way to control young Tree of Heaven is to remove the entire plant. Knowing what these look like is important so if one pops up in your yard, you should remove it right away.

Vinca major, also called Periwinkle is an evergreen ground cover that likes shady areas and can be seen all over Oak Creek canyon under the shade of the Sycamores and Pines that line the canyon. In a garden, it can quickly take over by sending out new runners and rooting along the way. The good thing is the roots are not that difficult to remove and a patch out of control can be removed or contained provided you pay attention and spend the time to do it.

Another invasive plant of Sedona that I see much of is the Trumpet Creeper. Having an orange tubular flower in spring and summer, it is a popular deciduous vine that clings to walls. The problem is it seems to like to spread underground as well. It spreads like it has rhizomes for a root system. Fortunately, Trumpet Creeper does respond to RoundUp. I would not plant this plant in the first place though. It is perhaps better used as a container plant against a fence or wall.

Bamboo Horror Stories

Bamboo is a type of grass spreading by rhizomes that stem out from the mother root rhizome mass. Some are considered “clumping” while others are “running” types. For a thick screen, many people opt to plant the running kind because it will spread and fill in gaps better than the clumping varieties. The problem with the running bamboo is when a shoot comes up in a spot you don’t want it to. But it can be controlled by simply cutting the rhizome. Enough space must be given to allow the running bamboo to spread. The problem is not understanding how bamboo rhizomes grow and not paying attention.

Typically, the only bamboo you will see for sale in the Sedona area is Golden Bamboo or Phyllostachus aurea which does well in our Zone 7 climate. Bamboo is usually planted to create a screen. Golden bamboo typically reaches about 12 feet high. Planted along a property line or fence can be risky if it is not contained with a rhizome barrier. You wouldn’t want it popping up in your neighbor’s yard and answer to their complaints. Therefore, it is best to be prudent and do provide some kind of containment or barrier to the boundaries that you would like the bamboo to spread and cover. Thick plastic material that comes is rolls 24″ wide is available specifically for the purpose of containing bamboo or other root systems. The key is to not ignore the growth of your bamboo, rather keep an eye on it so that you will notice any new shoots popping up where you don’t want them and then can easily cut the rhizome. The reason bamboo is feared is that most people plant it and forget about it until it is too late to be easily controlled.

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an alternative that does not spread and would have to be planted fairly close together to provide a screening effect. If you like bamboo because of its Asian theme, consider planting it in containers in groups, otherwise do use a rhizome barrier and keep an eye on it.

Research Before you Buy

Many homeowners may the common mistake of buying the pretty plant at the nursery because of its flower and general form whether it’s a shrub, ground cover, vine or tree. Think about this: why would a vendor selling a plant at a retail nursery put a description on the plant label that it is invasive? Of course it would put up a red flag and discourage the sale. Descriptions about the characteristics of plant growth are best researched online or in a good gardening book such as Sunset Western Gardening. There you will find objective useful information whether a plant is considered invasive or not.

Get Plants For Free With No Effort

Poppies

Poppies are beautiful flowers and prolific self seeders. They can remain in the ground for years and then grow when the soil is turned over. They grow fine in poor soil but like lots of sunshine. The seedlings are easily recognisable once you have them and that is useful if you want to transplant them because they are not keen on being moved but you may get away with it if you move them while they are still small. Make sure if you try you dig round and deep so you get the whole tap root and some soil around it.

Foxgloves

If you have more shade and less sun then tall and elegant foxgloves may be for you. They are poisonous though so consider carefully if you have children or pets. They self seed easily but the purple is the dominant colour so self seeded plants may revert to purple. That said the creamy foxgloves in my own garden have stayed creams so it doesn’t always happen and the purple is gorgeous anyway.

Nasturtiums

Apart from the double flowered types which may not self seed these vibrant flowered plants, with attractive foliage, return year after year. They will grow in part shade but you get the most flowers in full sun. They seem to attract copious quantities of black fly so they are a good companion plants for more valuable plants that are plagued by this little black pest. The flowers are edible and make a really pretty addition to a summer salad.

Forget Me Nots

Forget me nots are a pale blue froth of flowers that grow well in moist soil and shade. This makes them great in a woodland setting and near a pond or stream. They are easy to grow and return tenaciously.

Borage

You can grow borage in any type of soil even if it is dry or poor, although feeding helps and they do like full sun. They attract bees and both the flowers and leaves are edible. That said the leaves are best picked whilst very young. The flowers are a stunning blue star and are perfect added to summer drinks.

Ruby Falls Redbud

Ruby Falls blooms in profusion for two to three weeks in the months of March and April. Clusters of hot pink and rose-purple, pea shaped flowers bloom in clumps of color on mature trunks and the bare branches before the leaves show up. The bright flowers attract pollinators such as bees, birds and butterflies for a colorful display of movement and grace. Sitting on a bench nearby and watching the show is a way to get back into nature. It’s also a great way to introduce butterflies, bees and birds to young children who are sure to enjoy the display.

When the seed pods appear in summer, they give the appearance of looking like snow peas. The heart shape leaves of a deep rich purple open up in a ruby purple color in spring, then darken to a deep purple. As the season progresses the leaves change to summer green and then to bright yellow until the leaves fall in early winter. This tree gives color all year around for the enjoyment of all the seasons.

The Ruby Falls grows in loamy, clay, or sandy soil as long as the soil is well drained. It will need to be watered regularly until the tree is firmly established. It’s grown best in part sun to shade and is hardy in U.S.D.A Zones 6 through 9 with a pH level between 5.5 and 7.5.

If you want an eye-catching, elegant and small stature tree, then Ruby Falls Redbud is the one you are looking for. Your garden is sure to be the envy of all your gardening friends with this magnificent specimen in that special spot in your garden. The Ruby Falls Redbud will be a great addition to your yard for many years to come.

Deer Resistant Plants

Holly bushes grow in drained and slightly acidic soils. The bright red berries on this evergreen plant are said to repel the deer from reaching towards it. Planting time for these bushes is in spring through early fall. It can give a deep and enriched look to your place in winters as it matures.

Azalea is a flowering shrub that grows red in color. It is one of those shade plants that requires only light shade. Therefore it is always preferred to grow them under a tree or shaded side of the house. Azaleas are broadleaf evergreen and slower growing than other flowering shrubs, yet they are popular because they are deer resistant.

Euonymus shrubs are popular deer resistant shrubs. While there are many euonymus varieties, burning bush is the most popular. The berry fruit that grows over it is of pinkish red color and have orange seeds. The leaves of this plant are opposite and ovoid. It is used for medicinal purposes and its direct consumption is poisonous to animals and humans.

Yucca actually falls under the species of perennial plants. Many of its kinds are evergreen perennial. It has the leaves which are shaped like sword with white flowers. They have waxy skin over its surface which prevents the loss of water due to evaporation. It is like an ornamental plant which has prickly leaves and therefore the deer stay away from this plant as its sharp spine leaves can injure them.

Abelia Shrubs are popular summer flowering shrubs. The pink colored tubular shaped flowers bloom under lustrous leaves making it look lovely and fragrant. Due to its low maintenance and pest control qualities, it is the favorite of all. It requires a sunny atmosphere and therefore in winters as well as summers it requires at least half-day sunlight.

Old Fashioned Viburnum shrub, also known as snowball bush has beautiful white ball bunches of flowers. This species of viburnum is seedless and bears no fruits. It can bloom even on the old wood of previous season.

Agastache is a great gardening plant. Many varieties produce many flowering colors that are generally long blooming. This perennial plant is both deer resistant as well as drought tolerant plant. The attractive blooms attract bees and hummingbirds.

Pruning Effects New Plant Growth

Heading back will stimulate more new growing points. It is a known fact that the terminal bud secrete a growth-inhibiting chemical which move down to the lateral buds. These chemicals prevent the new lateral buds from growing, when cutting back the chemical is no longer available so the lateral buds start to grow. Usually, the buds just below the cut develop more, they in turn will start to manufacture the growth-inhibiting hormone to help prevent the growth of lateral buds farther down the branch.

Flowering shrubs are pruned by thinning out at different levels within the plant and cut the top back. Remove one or two branches all the way back to the ground. This will stimulate new growth from the root system which will help form a new plant. Don’t continue to prune at the same level year after year. If pruning continues at the same level over time a thick outer shell develops shading the inside of the plant, without sunlight the interior branches die. When damage occurs to the evergreen foliage and it dies a big brown-dead area will result. Since the interior of the plant has no live green foliage, the plant will look pretty bad. Don’t prune Japanese Yews and Junipers beyond where there are no green growth. Japanese Yews and Junipers are needle evergreens and they will not grow new foliage in areas where there no green needles. When plants become too large remove the old plants and re-plant. Select the right mature sized plant for the site. Remember, low maintenance is the best answer.

If most Holly broadleaf evergreens and Azaleas are cut back below the green growth, they will re-grow new foliage. Holly broadleaf evergreens are a big part of the landscape in the south. I have seen large holly plants cut back within 18 inches from the ground and re-grow into a new plant. It will take at lease two years before it will look like a shrub again. Some light pruning is required to re-shape the plant into a nice shrub.

Holly Tree

Identifiying a Holly

A full grown tree can reach a height of 15m and can live for over 250 years. It has smooth, thin bark which has many small warts that are brown in colour, with darker brown stems.

The dark green leaves are oval shaped and glossy. Young trees have very spikey leaves. As the leaves mature they lose their spikiness and become smoother. They are also much more likely to be smooth in the upmost parts of the tree.

Holly trees have a dioecious reproductive system; this means that the male and the female flowers are found on separate trees. The white flowers have four petals and develop into scarlet berries once they have been pollinated; these can stay and remain on the tree during winter and throughout.

Interesting fact: the holly berries are guarded by mistle thrush during the winter, stopping other birds from eating them

Significance to Wildlife

Because holly tree foliage is so dense, they provide optimal nesting prospects for birds and the dry leafs under the tree provide shelter for hedgehogs and other small mammals.

Pollinating insects such as bees use the flowers to collect pollen and nectar. There are numerous caterpillars from butterfly and moths that eat the foliage, such as the holly blue butterfly, as well as the double-striped pug, holly tortrix, yellow barred brindle. Deer may also eat the leaves at the top of the plant since they are usually smooth there; it is mainly for a winter source of food.

Birds will eat the berries and they can also be an important source of food in the winter but they may be eaten by dormice and wood mice.

How we use holly

Holly timber is very white and heavy with a tough and fine grain texture. It has many uses but works particularly well for making furniture and for use in engraving work; it is usually stained and polishes up well. The wood burns extremely well and is often used for firewood. You will often find the wood is used for making walking sticks as well.

We still use holly branches to decorate our homes with wreaths during Christmas.

Threats

There are a few pests and diseases affecting the Holly tree including holly leaf miner which causes extensive damage to the leaves and quite often defoliation. They are also susceptible to dieback caused by holly leaf blight.

Preparing Flower Beds for Winter

Plant Debris

One of the essential tasks of winter preparation is to remove dead heads and plant debris from the flower beds. Not only does this make the flower beds look better but it removes many of the winter hiding places for insects. This debris should be thrown away, not thrown in the compost pile.

Organic Material

Once the annuals are removed, you’re ready to add organic material to the soil. This can be manure or compost. If you chose to use manure, you can find bags at your local gardening center, or you can check with nearby farmers. Just be sure it is “aged” manure–not fresh.

Compost is easily made from kitchen scraps and soil. You can have a compost pile, use a compost barrel, or simply work the material directly into the flower bed.

You’ll want to use a rotary tiller to incorporate the organic matter into the dirt. While it may be tempting to buy a large tiller, if you have bulbs, you’ll want to use something more delicate. There are several smaller-sized tillers on the market. If you use one of these to work your way around the bulbs, you’re less likely to ruin your spring flowers.

Remove Bulbs

Depending on what zone you live in, you may need to dig up your bulbs and store them inside for the winter. Check with your local extension service for their recommendation.

The first step is to cut the foliage down. Leave 3 to 4 inches above ground to help you locate the bulbs. Now you can dig up the root ball. Shake off as much dirt as you can. They don’t have to be washed-with-a-hose clean, you just want to get the majority of the clumps off. As you pull the root ball apart, you’ll want to check for signs of rot.

Lay newspaper out on your garage floor and spread the bulbs out so they can dry for a day or two. Remove the remaining foliage from the tops. Now you can store them in a cardboard box or paper bag for the winter. Make sure they don’t touch while in storage. Packing them with sawdust will help.

Planning Vegetable Garden Plot

There’s never only one style of garden that works for everyone when it comes to vegetable garden planning because every gardener and their gardening wants and needs are unique. The type of soil you’ll be using, whether you’ll be sowing directly in the ground or using raised beds, how much sun and shade your garden area will get in a day, what types of fertilizers and supplements you’ll be using and what types of foods you’re looking to grow will all play a part in how your garden plan and your garden location is set up.

Settling on the best part of your yard for a garden is the first step. You want to look for an area that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunshine a day at a minimum, and has good drainage. The majority of plants will grow just fine if they have at least 6 hours of sunshine a day, and some food plants can even do well in partly shaded areas. Once you’ve decided on the location of your yard where you want to place your garden, next is deciding if you will be directly sowing into the ground or using some type of raised bed system. If directly sowing into the ground, prep the soil by tilling it and have it tested to find out what type of amendments if any you would need to add to make the soil hospitable to food plants. Raised beds are a bit simpler, just purchase some good garden soil and fill the beds. Most soils that are purchased are already fertilized and amended as needed, but a simple soil test can tell you if there are any additional amendments you’d need to add to your purchased dirt.

Another important factor in deciding where to place your garden is how close it is to a water source. You can’t always depend on the rain to provide a consistent and adequate source of water, so ensure you are close enough to a well or a water hose is long enough to reach the planted area without much hassle. Additionally if the garden is too far from a water source you may consider building a rain barrel out of a food grade 55 gallon jug for watering needs. Water is essential for your plants to grow strong and healthy and produce abundant crops for harvesting. If you’re interested in learning how to build a rain barrel, here is a good tutorial that shows you how.

So now you know where you want your garden, you’ve taken the steps to prep the soil or add the raised beds. Now that you’re done with that you need to decide what type of plants you want to grow. Always grow something you will actually eat, or that you can give away to someone who’s in need. Sometimes people are surprised by the amount of food that can be generated from a small amount of plants that do well. Unfortunately sometimes this food goes to waste because there is too much food, all of it couldn’t be given away or the growers don’t know how to can (put up) what they harvested. Start small on your first garden and get a feel for what you’re growing and how much time/effort it takes to not only grow but maintain, treat, debug, harvest and prepare the foods you’ll be growing.

Once you’ve decided what you’ll be growing it’s time to dive into your garden planning and get things placed in the best locations. Plants that grow tall are best kept in a part of the garden where they won’t shade other vegetables you’re growing. This can best be accomplished by keeping most of the bigger and taller plants toward the back which will most likely be the northern most part of your garden. Plants such as tomatoes are good candidate for this type of location.

Also consider companion planting, which is planting beneficial plants next to each other. Some examples are planting tomato next to basil, or green beans at the base of the corn stalk. Tomatoes benefit from basil by the basil repelling the tomato hornworm and basil can also enhance the flavor of tomatoes. Planting green beans that vine right next to a corn stalk provides the beans with a natural trellis and the beans affix nitrogen into the soil that benefits your corn, you can even add squash plants to the same bed as the corn and beans. Squash plants can deter raccoon’s from demolishing the corn since raccoon’s don’t like how the prickly squash leaves and vines feel. These are just two examples of how companion planting can work for your garden. There are other examples of companion planting such as onions, garlic and leeks planted with nightshades such as tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, as well as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower being planted with carrots.

Once your first year of planting is over, setting up your garden plan for the following year is a good fall/winter activity. Keep a schematic of what you planted where during your first gardening season. This will help you remember where you planted specific plants so you can ensure you don’t plant the same plant in the same location to following year. This is called crop rotation and it can benefit your garden by preventing the soil from harboring fungal spores, diseases and/or bacteria that can gain strength and become a problem if the same plants are planted in the same spots year after year. Crop rotation will also keep nutrients balanced in the soil and keep the soil healthier. Crop rotation is not a 100% fix all, but it can go a long way in helping reduce the chances of these problems happening.

Choose Heirloom Tomato Seeds

  • Many gardeners do so for the flavour of the crop. This applies specially to tomatoes. Heirloom vegetables have been saved for decades and even centuries because they are the best performers in home and market gardens.
  • Heirloom vegetables are likely to be more nutritious than newer varieties. However, opinions differ on this point. Certainly it is claimed that some of the orange and black or purple tomato varieties are higher in antioxidants then modern varieties. In the past vegetables were grown organically and today a growing voice of opinion favours organic methods to produce nutritionally dense food crops.
  • Most varieties of Heirloom tomatoes don’t ripen all at once. The plant continues to produce fruit throughout the season until stopped by frosts. Hybrids produce their crop over a shorter span of time, an advantage for commercial growers.
  • Unlike modern hybrid varieties, heirloom tomatoes come true from seed. This enables you to save seed from your crop to grow next season and to exchange with other growers, a cost-effective way of trying other varieties.