Showing posts with label fertilizing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fertilizing. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

3 Things You Should NOT Do in the Garden in Fall

If you are not overly fond of gardening chores, you may be relieved to know that there are things you simply shouldn't do right now. You're off the hook, at least for the time being. 

Here's what you should NOT be doing in fall:
1. Pruning. Pruning stimulates growth. If you prune trees and shrubs now, they will react by sending out new shoots. That new growth is very tender and susceptible to frost damage. If we have an early freeze, which has been the pattern the past two or three years, that new growth will be damaged. This weakens the plant and makes it less hardy overall. This goes for roses, too. They might look leggy and ragged right now, and you're tempted to go over there and clean them up, but wait until February. For more information, read this post on when to prune

2. Fertilizing. It's time for your garden to slow down and rest. Lawn and general purpose fertilizers stimulate growth, and this is not the season for that. If you are planting bulbs, a top dressing of bone meal is fine, but otherwise, fertilizing is like drinking an energy drink just before bedtime. 

3. Watering. OK, this seems obvious, especially since we've had some rain in the past couple of weeks. But some people with automatic sprinkling systems get so used to not having to think about watering (or not watering) that they forget to turn them off until late in the season. Established gardens need little or no supplemental watering after September 1. (New gardens, ones planted this year or last, may need more water if we haven't had rain.) If you water by hand, water less frequently as fall approaches. Dry conditions, along with cooler night temperatures and shorter days, are a signal to plants that it is time to start slowing down, hardening off and preparing for winter. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keeping the Bloom on Your Roses

I've been noticing that the roses in West Seattle gardens are particularly beautiful this year. This is worth noting because the climate in the Pacific Northwest is not the best for growing roses. Roses love sun and we don't get a lot of it. Our cool, damp days are better suited to the growth of fungal diseases, like black spot, that love to build colonies on the leaves of our rose plants. 
(Some roses more suited to our climate than others. If you want to know more about them, I recommend Christine Allen's book, "Roses for the Pacific Northwest.")
So why are our roses looking so good this year? I suspect that it has to do with the extra rainfall we've had this year. Our usual rainfall pattern is that we have adequate rain to keep gardens looking lush through the month of May. In June, we often have a lot of cloudy days, but not very much rain. Gardeners are fooled by the cloudiness into thinking the garden is getting enough water, when that isn't necessarily the case. Particularly with roses, which are greedy on all fronts: they want lots of water, sun, and nutrients. 
So far this year, we have had three times the usual amount of rainfall for the month of June. This has had the effect of extending bloom time for lots of spring flowering shrubs and perennials. Roses, most of which are at the beginning of their bloom season, are getting off to a healthy, well-watered start this year. If you want to keep the bloom on your roses throughout the summer, I suggest that you consider following up with a good fertilizing routine. Ideally, that routine would have started months ago, but whatever you do to feed your roses from here on out will be rewarded.
Here is a 4-Step feeding program for roses that was given to me years ago by a rosarian with a passion for both beautiful roses and keeping hazardous chemical use to a minimum. He has long since sold his nursery and moved out of the area. Thanks, Robert, wherever you are! 
If you are fertilizing your plants for the first time in June, skip step one and continue from there.

  1. In February, March or April, apply 1 cup of superphosphate to each rose in your garden. Superphosphate works better than bone meal because it breaks down faster. It builds strong root systems and improves the rose's ability to flower repeatedly over the summer. It also costs less. Use it only once a year.
  2. Apply 1 cup of alfalfa meal of 2 cups of alfalfa pellets to each rose in March or April. Some rosarians repeat this application in June. Alfalfa releases nitrogen slowly and releases an enzyme that dramatically increases the rose's feeder root system. This means that the plant can make better use of available nutrients in the soil, as well as the fertilizers you give it.
  3. Starting in April, as the soil begins to warm, apply 1/2 cup of granular 16-16-16 fertilizer, and re-apply every 4-6 weeks. Your last application should be in August. (As with all granular fertilizers, water well after application unless you have adequate rainfall to dissolve them.) This step is the core of your feeding program.
  4. Apply Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) to your roses to stimulate new, larger canes and to enhance flower color. Use 3/8 to 1/2 cup per rose in May or June. Magnesium sulphate, combined with a complete feeding program, does a good job of rejuvenating old, tired roses. 
Along with a good feeding program, be sure that your roses get plenty of water during dry spells. They aren't as thirsty as lawns, but still - they aren't drought tolerant. Also, roses need lots of sun. There are a few, rare cultivars that will grow in shade, but most will be leggy, buggy and fail to bloom unless they are in full sun.

Be aware that even under the best circumstances, there are some rose varieties that are hopelessly susceptible to problems. If you have them in your garden, you might be better off replacing them with hardier cultivars. Ask at West Seattle Nursery for suggestions. There are lots to choose from. Enjoy!
Do you need a Horticultural House Call? For more information or to make an appointment, please email me.