Monthly Archives: February 2018

Rose Gardening Tasks for Early Spring

Rose Gardening Tasks for Early Spring
Rose Gardening Tasks forEarly Spring

When should you start preparing your rose garden for the onset of spring and summer? Well, if you live in an area where you can start seeing the promise of spring in late March or early April, then you’re an “early spring” rose gardener. However, if you live where March and April still brings icy rain and snow, then just keep waiting out old man winter until your turn at spring arrives and then follow the tips in this article.

Early spring is a time of great activity in the rose garden as you prepare for the beautiful buds that will be sprouting almost any day. Here’s a summary of what needs to be done in order to prepare your roses for the tough growing season that lies ahead.

If you covered your roses with dirt or mulch, your first step is to gently remove the protective materials so you can introduce your dormant bushes to the warming spring sun and rains that lie ahead.

Before beginning your spring pruning activities, cut back any dead and damaged canes that did not survive the winter. Be sure to clear away any debris and residue from around the bushes as well.

Prepare the soil to nurture your plants by adding some organic compounds. You can either buy pre-packaged organics from your favorite garden supplier, or you can mix up your own recipe using composted manure or mushroom compost, or any of the usual meal blends which can include alfalfa, cottonseed, fish or blood meal. See below for some suggestions.

Work your soil with a spade or hoe if it has become too compacted during the winter or if you notice standing water after watering your plants. Roses require well-drained soil to thrive.

After soil preparation is done you can plant any new additions to your garden including container grown roses.

Next it is time to begin your fungicide spraying regiment either immediately or, if you prefer to wait, approximately 14 days after you complete your pruning. Opinions on the best time differ. The choice is yours.

Remember to rotate through different fungicides during the year to prevent any fungi from becoming immune to any one product.

Don’t use any pesticides unless you see evidence of damage, but remember to keep a sharp eye out for aphids which are as much a sign of spring as April showers are. Hit them with a blast of water to remove them, or apply insecticide in a mister to the affected areas.

Imagine how hungry you’d be if you just woke up from a long winter hibernation! Well, your Roses are hungry too. The best way to coax them from dormancy to budding is to feed them now and every other week through the remainder of the growing season. Water well after feeding! Feed with a fertilizer balanced for Nitrogen (N), Phosphates (P2O5) and Potash (K2O). Nitrogen stimulates the growth of leaves and canes and increases the size of the bush. Phosphate stimulates the growth of roots, canes and
stems and speeds up flowering. Potash stimulates the production of top quality blooms and improves the drought and disease resistance of the plant. A good balanced fertilizer with these elements is 10-10-10.

Another popular spring fertilizer is Osmocote which is a controlled release fertilizer that releases nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium depending on soil temperature. The 18-6-12 (8 to 9 month term) formulation is recommended for this area. Osmocote is also available with trace elements added in a product with the name of Sierra 17-6-10 Plus Minors Controlled Release Fertilizer

There! Your rose garden is ready for spring, but remember your work is far from over. If spring is near then summer can’t be far behind. Read our summer article at http://www.RoseGarden-How-To.com to learn how
to prepare your roses for the coming summer heat.

Garden Soil Preparation for the Backyard Gardener

Garden Soil Preparation for the Backyard Gardener
Garden Soil Preparation for the Backyard Gardener

Planting a backyard garden can be a fun and rewarding experience if you approach the planning and preparations aspect of gardening in the right way  but a lack of planning and preparation can cause your hard work in the hot summer months to yield mediocre results (if any) at the end of the growing season.

Perhaps somewhere in the world, the key to successful gardening is simply dropping a handful of seeds into the ground and watching them spring up. But most garden soils require careful attention and preparation.

Choosing a Plot
A common mistake among beginning and experienced gardeners alike is to plant more than they can possibly care for. A successful vegetable garden plot does not need to be big. A small, well-tended garden will grow as much or more produce than a larger one that the owner cannot keep up with.

Backyard gardeners should choose a sunny spot where water is readily available. Most vegetables do best in full sun if possible, but at a minimum, your garden should get at least 6 hours of sun a day.

Try to select a spot with good, rich soil. Good garden soil is deep, loose, fertile, well drained, rich in organic material and has a neutral pH. The ideal garden soil composition is about 5% organic matter, 25% air, 25% water, and 45% mineral matter. If you are planting a garden in a desert area with naturally not fertile soil, plan on working to improve the soil that is there.

Prepare your soil
Although organic material is only 5% of the ìideal formulaî for good growing soil, applying the right organic matter to your soil can make worlds of difference.

Nearly all soils, whether clay, sandy or humus, benefit from the addition of organic matter. Spread a layer of organic matter two to three inches thick over the soil surface and incorporate it six to eight inches deep. Organic matter breaks up clay allowing for air and water circulation, and helps hold water in sandy soils. Good sources of organic matter include straw, twigs, leaves, peat moss, sawdust, grass clippings and well-rotted manure.

Organic matter will tie up nitrogen as it decays. Add nitrogen fertilizer to the organic matter to aid in the decomposition process. This addition of nitrogen is not intended to aid future plant growth, but to act as a facilitator to help in decomposition. More nitrogen fertilizer will be required when you begin planting. Youíll want to use one pound of ammonium sulfate, or 2/3 pound of ammonium nitrate, or Ω pound of urea for each inch of organic matter placed on one hundred square feet of soil. As a word of caution, if you are using well-rotted manure for organic matter, reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer you apply by one half.

Tilling
Finally, before you are ready to plant, the soil should be tilled thoroughly. Tilling breaks up hard soil and allows air to circulate around the roots of your plants. Us a tiller, shovel or fork to churn the soil at least eight inches deep. Do not try to till your soil too early in the spring before the soil has had a chance to dry out a bit. Tilling muddy soil only causes mud clods that choke tender roots of needed air and water.

Once your soil is ready, consult your local extension or the back of your seed packets for the proper time to plant your garden fruits and vegetables.

By following these simple preparatory steps before you plant, you will increase your chances of having a bountiful harvest at the end of the growing season. Good luck and happy gardening!

Planning the Dream: 3 Key Steps to Building an Outdoor Oasis from EP Henry

Jarod Hynson, President of landscaping company Earth, Turf & Wood Inc., has seen his share of extreme outdoor renovations. As an experienced landscape designer, Mr. Hynson has built lavish backyard projects rivaling any luxury resort. He’s also installed small urban patios and outdoor kitchens. The most important thing for any size project, Mr. Hynson said, is to have a 3-to-5 year master plan. “What is the end goal?” he asks. Here, Mr. Hynson gives three main steps to begin planning any outdoor project.

Gather ideas

Homeowners must first establish the kind of project. “Look at the backyard and say, ‘What do we really want in that backyard?” Mr. Hynson advised. “‘What is going to make us wanna walk out there?’” A collection of photos and ideas is a good beginning. Catalogs and online sites can provide many possibilities for big and small outdoor areas. Thorough research is required. Many new elements and technological advances have been introduced in the last several years, including pre-measured outdoor kitchen kits and indoor-outdoor porcelain tiles.

Build a budget

A homeowner doesn’t need an exorbitant budget and many acres of land to get the most out of the landscape. A step-by-step plan implemented over time is the path to accomplish any backyard dream. Whether it be a simple paver patio or a big pool and spa combo, it all begins with an idea. Start with the end in mind, and plan from there. Parts of the patio, outdoor kitchen or living room, etc. can be added as budgets allow. Homeowners should share their full vision with a contractor. Homeowner and contractor together working as a team will produce a plan that incorporates future phases.

Research materials and contractors

A visit to a paver distributor can give the homeowner an idea of the materials used in today’s outdoor projects. Seeing materials in person is a key step in deciding what will work for the project. The variation in quality between pavers and paver manufacturers can be wide. Look for the tried and true brands first.

Finding a contractor can be a tough process, but a hidden resource is the paver manufacturer’s list of approved contractors. An experienced patio paver manufacturer will have a list of contractors with proven high levels of service and skill.

One last thing: contractors should be booked as early as possible. “The window is not big enough to start in March,” Mr. Hynson said. Planning for a pool, for example, needs to begin almost a year before. His company is typically booked solid by December for the coming summer’s projects. “The absolute best time to come to us about planning a pool,” Mr. Hynson said, “is really June, July, or August.”

About EPHenry®

EP Henry®, the oldest American family-owned and operated manufacturer of unit concrete products in North America, provides the highest quality and broadest product offerings in Hardscaping(™). Based in Woodbury, New Jersey, EP Henry manufactures a wide range of paving stone and retaining wall products, including permeable pavers which are a best management practice (BMP) for stormwater management. EP Henry also offers beautiful patio pavers, outdoor kitchen kits, garden wall solutions and more. For more information on EP Henry Hardscaping products, visit EPHenry.com or call 800-44-HENRY (800-444-3679).

Fight the Winter Blues – Grow Nutritious Microgreens Indoors

Microgreens photo_credit_MelindaMyersLLC
Microgreens photo_credit_MelindaMyersLLC

Dress up salads, sandwiches and snacks with homegrown microgreens. “These mini sprouts are easy to grow indoors, ready to harvest in less than two weeks and require no special growing equipment,” says gardening expert Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses Food Gardening for Everyone DVD set. Myers shared these tips for getting started:

Simply purchase seeds labeled for microgreen growing or organic sprouts such as sunflowers, kale, radish or cilantro. These are meant for this purpose and have not been treated with harmful chemicals.

Radish microgreens add a bit of zip to salads and sandwiches. Cilantro microgreens have a similar, but much milder taste than leaves harvested from a mature plant. Kids of all ages love sunflower sprouts. They have a nutty flavor and make a tasty snack when eaten alone.

Sprout seeds in a shallow container with drainage holes. Purchase sprouting containers or make some from clean repurposed fast food containers. Just punch holes in the bottom for drainage. Use the clear tops to create a mini greenhouse, helping retain heat and moisture to speed sprouting.

Fill the container with a quality seed starting mix like Hsu Germination+ organic seed starting mix that retains moisture and contains naturally occurring beneficial soil microbes. Leave about half an inch of space between the lip of the container and the seed starting mix.

Sprinkle seeds over the soil surface and lightly press them into the soil. Water seeds in place with a very gentle stream of water or spray bottle. Cover the planted container to increase humidity and speed sprouting. Place in a warm dark location.

Once the greens break through the soil, remove the cover and move the container to a sunny location or under artificial lights. Water often enough to keep the seed starting mix moist, but not too wet.

The microgreens are ready to harvest once they form a set of true leaves that look like those of the plants sprouting. This takes about 10 to 14 days and the microgreens will be about two inches tall.

Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the greens just above the soil surface. Rinse thoroughly right before serving. Store any extra unwashed greens in a ventilated plastic bag for several days in the refrigerator.

Microgreens are easy to grow and tasty to eat, tempting many to plant even more. For a continual supply of this nutritious treat, simply plant a new batch every four or five days and enjoy!

Starting Plants Indoors with Lights Yields Better Results

Compact 3-Tier SunLite Garden_photo_credit_Gardeners_Supply_Company
Compact 3-Tier SunLite Garden_photo_credit_Gardeners_Supply_Company

It’s time to break out the seeds and potting mix to start garden plants indoors. “It’s a great way to keep your green thumb in shape over winter,” says Melinda Myers host of The Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series. “Plus, you’ll save money, increase the variety of plants and jump start the growing season. And when you start seeds under LED grow lights you’ll have better results.”

Indoor growing conditions often offer limited light and that can mean tall leggy transplants with weak stems, explained Myers. Gardeners can greatly increase their success by investing in quality grow lights. Adding artificial light to any seed starting regime results in stout transplants with strong stems and deep green leaves. Myers offered these tips for getting started.

Invest wisely when shopping for indoor plant lights. Fluorescent tubes used to be the standard because they provided a wide spectrum of light needed for plant growth and flowering, were relatively inexpensive and readily available. Unfortunately, they used significant amounts of electricity and needed to be replaced every few years. Then many gardeners shifted to full spectrum fluorescent grow lights. Many last longer than the older and larger fluorescent tubes, but new LED grow lights provide even better light intensity with much less energy.

In the past, LED lights tended to be pricey and many suffered from sticker shock. Fortunately, the prices have dropped. Plus, if people consider the fact that LED plant lights typically use half the energy of fluorescent tubes, provide consistent light quality and last up to five times longer, the long-term savings outweighs the initial investment. They’re also mercury-free and won’t add contaminates to landfills.

When replacing fluorescent tubes with LED grow lights, look for compatibility. Some of the newer LED grow lights are compatible with existing T-5 light setups. Consumers simply need to replace the bulb, not the whole lighting system.

Get the most out of this investment and grow better transplants with proper use. Move seedlings under lights as soon as they start breaking through the soil surface. Keep the lights about six inches above the top of seedlings. This means raising the lights or lowering the plants as the seedlings grow. Or make a light stand using adjustable supports to raise and lower lights as needed. Use a reflector above grow light tubes to direct the light downward toward the plants. Bounce light back onto seedlings by using reflective surfaces under and around the plants. Even easier, invest in a quality grow light stand like the SunLite® Garden.

Set the lights on a timer. Seedlings need about 14 to 16 hours of light. Plants do need a dark period, so running the lights longer wastes electricity and is not good for the plants. If using grow lights to supplement natural daylight, gardeners may only need to run the lights a few hours a day. Monitor plant growth and increase the duration if the plants appear leggy or pale.

Increased light along with proper watering, fertilizer and growing temperatures will ensure a bumper crop of transplants for gardens and containers this season.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments.