Showing posts with label Gardening basics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gardening basics. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's February and Time to Prune Roses

'Joseph's Coat' rose

Ask rosarians around here and you will find out that February is the month to prune roses. Exactly when in February is a matter of opinion. Some people do their pruning around the first of the month. Others wait for Valentine's Day or Presidents Day. Others won't touch their roses until the last days of the month.

Why does it matter? Pruning stimulates growth. Plants respond to being cut back by releasing growth hormones and new shoots follow soon after. This new growth is tender and very susceptible to cold damage. A late, hard freeze will kill the new growth and possibly the entire plant. Therefore, you want to hold off until you are reasonably sure the danger of a freeze is past.

Beyond the question of when to prune roses, there's the question of how. The answer is complicated because there are several different types of roses and they are pruned in different ways. Hybrid tea roses are cut back to about 18", shrub roses are pruned to shape them and climbers are pruned primarily to train them onto a structure. Rejuvenating old roses requires yet another technique. As always, I refer you to the book, Pruning and Training, for specific directions.

If you live in the Seattle area and want hands-on instruction, consider attending Plant Amnesty's rose pruning class on February 13. The cost is a reasonable $15 for non-members (less for Plant Amnesty members and horticulture students). You'll learn the proper way to prune your roses and have a chance to ask questions before trying this at home.

Keep in mind that rose pruning varies considerably from region to region. What works in the unique climate of the Northwest is not applicable to other parts of the country (or world for that matter). If you live outside the Puget Sound region, check with your local horticulture professionals for advice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ready To Take Out Your Lawn?

Have you been flirting with the idea of getting rid of your lawn? It is a big step to take, especially if you have no idea how to begin. You may have lots of ideas about what you want to do with the space currently taken up with grass, but how do you get rid of it so you can get started?

There are at least two methods of sod "abatement." One is to remove the lawn, roots and all, with either a sod-cutting machine or with a hand tool called a mattock. The second method, called sheet mulching,  involves covering the grass with newspapers or cardboard, layering over that with organic material and soil, and planting right over the top.

I've used both methods and have had success either way. Sod removal is definitely more labor intensive and you have the problem of sod disposal (trust me, it does not compost easily or quickly). Sod-cutters are big, heavy machines, which is why I've removed miles of sod with a mattock instead. But once that sod is gone, it's gone. No grass will be poking up through the new beds.

Sheet mulching is much easier, and for many people, more practical. Care must be taken, however, to be sure there is a thick, even layer of cardboard with no gaps between pieces where grass can shoot up. Sheet mulching also raises the level of the yard a little bit. In most cases, that adds a pleasing bermed effect. Just be sure the sheet mulch is not in contact with wood (a fence, deck or the siding on a house) or  you will have problems.

To get a look at how these methods work, here's a great series of videos showing the Urban Farmers Guild of Sustainable NE Seattle converting a homeowner's lawn into a food garden. The sod is removed in half the yard. The sheet mulching technique is used on the other half. The videos are taken over several months so you can see the process from sod abatement to thriving vegetable garden. Enjoy!