Thursday, November 16, 2017

Time to Plant Amaryllis

There’s nothing quite like an amaryllis blooming for the holidays. Best of all, amaryllis are easy to grow and their blooms last a long time.
Begin by selecting quality bulbs. Look for bulbs that are firm and dry and still have some of their natural papery covering. You’ll find amaryllis bulbs graded as small, medium and large. The larger the bulb size, the more stalks and blooms it will produce. Once you've chosen the bulbs you want to start, it's time to pick out a container. You can grow amaryllis in ceramic pots, clay pots or plastic pots. Whichever container you select needs to have good drainage.
It's also important to know that amaryllis like to be snug in their pot, so select a container that's about an inch or so larger than the bulb and is deep enough for the roots to grow.
Next, add damp potting soil to the bottom third of the pot. Place the bulb in the center of the pot and spread the roots out so they fan out from the center of the bulb.
Do the best you can with the roots. You're mainly trying to keep the roots from being bunched together under the bulb.
Fill in around the bulb with more damp potting soil. Leave the top third of the bulb uncovered. Water thoroughly and place the bulb in a warm, well-lit location. Once the flower stalk begins to appear, you can start feeding your bulb with a 20-20-20 fertilizer. After that, fertilize every two weeks and water frequently enough to keep the soil moist.
You can also grow amaryllis in stones and water, by using a forcing vase. Trim off dried roots to prevent them from decomposing in the water. This will help keep the water cleaner, longer. Add water to the container until it just touches the bottom of the bulb. Place the container in a bright, warm location. In about 6 weeks, your amaryllis should begin to bloom. 
Once the blooms have faded, cut the flower stalk off near the top of the bulb.
Leave the foliage in place and continue to feed the bulb every couple of weeks. For colorful blooms throughout the holidays, plant amaryllis bulbs every three to four weeks, starting now.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fall Rose Care Tips

Mid-November is the right time to get your roses ready for winter. Most of the winter damage to roses and perennials comes from temperature fluctuations, dry winds and lack of moisture. It's not uncommon for winter daytime temperatures to be surprisingly warm, followed by very cold nights.
Freezing night time temperatures followed by thawing out during the day can affect the soil around your roses and cause root and graft damage. There are three things to do now. First, make sure your roses are well hydrated, so give them a good drink of water. Plants with dry roots suffer more in cold temperatures than plants with wet roots.
Second, prune back canes to about 24" to 30". Prune to the outward bud, so that future growth is toward the outside, away from the center of the bush.
Make sure your pruners are
Dull pruners will crush the cane
rather than cut it. Save any major pruning until spring. Clean up leaves and debris especially if you had problems with rust or black spot this season.
Third, mulch your roses to keep the ground cold and stable. Adding mulch at this time helps stabilize the soil temperature and prevent damage due to the freeze/thaw cycle. Mulching also helps prevent moisture loss. Roses that have been watered well and then mulched stand a better chance of surviving the winter than roses with dry roots. Choose a mulch that will stay in place through the winter. Cedar mulch and Gorilla Hair mulch are two good choices. Pile mulch 8" to 10" deep around the base of the rose. 
Rose collars can also be used to help keep mulch in place.
Place the rose collar around the rose, fasten it and fill with
a mulch.
Soil Pep is a good choice for filling rose collars.
For climbing roses, follow the same procedure; clean up around the base of the rose, water well and mulch. Don't prune climbers at this time. You can secure the canes to their trellis or bundle the canes together and wrap them with burlap for protection.
A simple way to prevent winter wind damage is to use an anti-
desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf. Applying Wilt-Pruf in the fall will help preserve moisture in your roses, through the winter.  One more important winter task is to water your roses every 4-5 weeks. Pick a nice day above 45 and water your roses, trees and perennials thoroughly.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Put those fall leaves to work

Fall leaves are packed with organic matter and nutrients, so take advantage of this year's abundant supply to enrich your garden soils
Good things happen when you add organic material to your garden soils. Clay soils become more workable, sandy soils retain water more effectively, earth worm populations go up, microbial activity increases and the health and balance of your soil improves. Continuously improving your garden soil is the key to healthier, more productive crops season after season.
An easy way to put fall leaves to
work is to rake them up and scatter them across the surface of your garden, then fork them in a bit.
Another approach is to dig a shallow (5" to 6") trench, fill it with leaves and cover with dirt. Through the course of the winter, the leaves will break down.
Come spring, use a garden fork to work the composted leaves into your garden
's soil. To speed up the composting process, put the catcher bag on your mower and mow the leaves instead of raking them. The resulting smaller pieces will breakdown faster in your garden.
Use leaves as a mulch around perennials. Mulching will help keep the ground stable and retain moisture. Fall leaves are a great
source of carbon when added to your compost pile.
Leaves count as "browns" in making compost. A good ratio of
browns and greens is about 4:1 browns (carbon) to greens (nitrogen). Adding leaves in thin (2" to 3") layers will help the compost pile stay warm and working during the winter.
Now's the time to put those beautiful fall leaves to work.
You'll have a healthier, more productive garden next season.  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Getting your trees ready for winter

Along with your other fall garden chores, it's important to get the trees in your landscape ready for winter. Winterizing trees includes light pruning, adding some organic materials to the soil, watering and in the case of young trees, wrapping the trunk. Pruning this time of year should be confined to small branches and suckers.
Tree suckers are branches that can emerge from the base of the tree or low on the trunk. Trees that are under stress will tend to send up more suckers. Prune these branches off now. Small dead branches in the trees canopy can be removed now.
Using a sharp bypass pruner, cut these small branches near the main trunk. Other than small branches and suckers, any major pruning is best done in winter when the tree is dormant. This is a good time of the year to add organic material to the area under the tree. Peat moss, compost and humate applied now will work into the ground through the winter, improving the soil your tree roots are growing in. This will promote stronger root systems which in turn will make your tree healthier over all. Compost and peat moss can be applied in thin layers to the area under the tree.
Humates are also a good source of organic material. HuMic is a granular product that will break down clay, improve soil structure and increase microbial activity in the soil. Adding HuMic helps your tree take up nutrients more effectively.
When you're finished adding
humate and organic material, water the tree thoroughly. A good rule of thumb to remember is your tree needs about 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter. If your sprinkler system is shut off, you can water by hand or use a simple lawn sprinkler. The key is to water at a slow enough rate that the water soaks in and doesn't run off.
Finally, y
oung deciduous trees need to have their trunks wrapped. This is to prevent damage from the winter sun It’s not unusual for winter temperatures to reach 60° Fahrenheit in the daytime. When it gets this warm during the day, the low winter sun heats up the tree bark, especially on the south and southwest sides of the tree. The sun’s warming action breaks the tree's dormancy and the cells on that side of the tree wakeup and become activeWhen the temperatures fall after sunset, the active cells and tissue die.
The damaged area will
often shrink and discolor. Later in the season, the bark may fall off, leaving a long scar. Applying tree wrap now is a quick and simple way to protect the tree from the winter sun.
Tree wrap is a corrugated paper product, sold in 50' and 150' rolls.
Start at the base of the tree and spiral the wrap upward to the first primary branch.
Overlap each
turn about 1/3rd. Once you reach the first set of branches, loop the tree wrap over a strong, sturdy branch and tape it, so it will stay in place. Apply tree wrap so the printed side is out. A good rule of thumb is to wrap your trees around Halloween and remove the wrap around Easter.  You should wrap trees for the first six or seven years after you plant them. Adding organic material, wrapping and watering your trees will help them survive the winter and emerge healthier in the spring.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Time to cleanup the vegetable garden

October's sunny days and crisp night remind us that it's time to clean up the vegetable gardens.
Last week's hard frost finished off what was left of the tomatoes and other warm season crops, leaving behind blackened foliage and a few half ripe fruits, prompting us to take advantage of the nice weather to prepare our gardens for winter. Garden cleanup is best done now rather than in the spring. There are two main reasons for this. First, when you cut down and remove spent plants and vines, you're eliminating potential hiding places for insects and disease. Leaving tomato plants, cucumber vines and other vegetable plant debris in your garden after you've finished harvesting, will provide hiding places for pests and plant diseases, giving them a head start on your garden next spring. 
Powdery mildew is a classic example of plant diseases that can survive our winters. You'll want to remove and destroy any vegetable plants that show signs of powdery mildew. Don't add these plants to your compost pile. The temperatures won't get hot enough to destroy the fungus.  Vegetable garden debris can also attract insects. Western flower thrip is an insect that will winter over in your garden, then emerge in the spring to infest your tomatoes and other vegetables.  
If your tomatoes looked like this, it means there were
thrips on the plant. Best to clean up the garden now and reduce the chances of thrips or other insects surviving the winter in your garden.
The second reason for fall
cleanup is to facilitate adding organic material to your garden bed while the soil is warm and workable. Healthy soil is key to your garden and a clean garden bed is the ideal time to amend your soil. Plan to add 2" to 3" of organic materials.
This can be in the form of packaged organic
compost, peat moss and coconut coir that you can easily transport to the garden.
Adding organic material will improve soil structure and increase microbial activity, which leads to stronger root development and improved nutrient uptake.
Strong root systems, healthy, microbial-rich
soil are sure to improve the yields in your garden.  Make fall garden clean up a part of your routine. It will set up your vegetable garden for a great start next spring.