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It’s Not Too Late To Mulch

Is it too late to talk about mulch? No, indeed! We’re coming up on the hottest part of the year when mulch can help keep roots cool and growing (remember – grow the roots, the rest of the plant will take care of itself) and when we need to conserve moisture.

Everyone asks how much mulch to apply and when to apply it. There are no right answers. It depends on several factors, including your soil, amount of rainfall, type of mulch, and how weedy the ground is.

Here are some guidelines:

  • For most mulches and soils, start with a layer 3-4 inches deep. Use newspaper as a decomposable barrier to keep weeds at bay.
  • If the soil is dry, water it before applying mulch to pull weeds easier.
  • Apply mulch just about anytime, remembering that if you mulch early in the spring, the ground might be slow to warm. If you mulch only in the winter to prevent heaving, wait until the ground freezes. Mulch could delay freezing of the ground, causing roots to go dormant later than normal and possibly damaging them.

Sort through the mulch options and choose the right security blanket for your flowerbeds.

  • Dark-color mulches will absorb and retain more heat from the sun than light-color ones. This is an advantage in cooler regions but a disadvantage in hotter climates.
  • Light-color mulches (particularly decorative landscaping types, such as white stones) reflect light and heat and can dangerously overheat surrounding plants.
  • Some mulches won’t stay put. Gravel and stones creep onto lawns (and make tempting throwables for kids). Cocoa hulls blow away. Small bark chips can wash downstream in a heavy rain. In general, mulches with heavy or large pieces are more likely to stay put. Those that form a mat, such as leaves and pine needles, are usually stable, too.
  • Organic mulches, such as grass clippings, leaves, manure, and compost, improve the soil. Stones and plastic don’t. Black plastic, unless it’s porous or perforated, grows a smelly, slimy coating. It also turns brittle and breaks into little pieces that escape the garden. Cheap landscape fabric is not worth it — weeds and roots will tangle in it.

Keeping Them Lush and Blooming

Fertilizing plants can be a bit bewildering, but to get the most out of your plants, especially container plants, it is essential.  Have you ever wondered why some people and places seem to have larger, fuller plants?  The likely answer is regular fertilization and correct watering.  While many plants will do OK with little or no fertilizer, they will reach their full potential only with the correct nutrition.

If you are planting into the landscape add the appropriate amount of fertilizer into the hole before placing the plant (consult the package for specific amounts).  Be sure to mix the fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole.  Roots can be burned by direct contact with slow release fertilizer.  If you are applying to an already established planting, top dress according to the directions on the package.

So should you use a water soluble or controlled/slow release fertilizer?  In general I think most people are best served using a controlled or slow release fertilizer.  You apply it once or in some cases twice a growing season and then just water as necessary.  You don’t have to mix up fertilizer every week or two and your plants should be perfectly happy.

There are times when it makes sense to supplement your controlled release fertilizer with an application or two of water soluble fertilizer.

If you have plants in pots that are “heavy” feeders (those that need a lot of nutrition), such as Supertunias®, you may want to use a water soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks to boost the nutrition level.  Heavy feeders planted in the soil are taking advantage of the native fertility of your soil and shouldn’t need the extra fertilizer.

If you have gone through a long rainy period or had a very heavy rainfall, an application of water soluble fertilizer will return some nutrition to your potting mix (what was there has likely washed away in the rain) and help your plants rebound.

If your plants have grown very large supplemental water soluble fertilizer may help them maintain lush growth.

Plants will only need fertilizer during active growth periods.  So if the plants are dormant don’t bother feeding.  If the plants are actively growing you should be fertilizing.  Be careful not to over fertilize in early spring (only a problem with water soluble fertilizers) when cooler temperatures mean plants aren’t growing as much.

The Easy Way To Grow Roses

Until recently, many gardeners saw roses as too frustrating or time consuming for average people. Further, the amount of fungicides and insecticides required were not ecologically or economically friendly.

Fortunately, advances in rose breeding have changed all this, making roses something any gardener can enjoy. Often called shrub or landscape roses, these are bred for resistance to the many rose problems, including black spot and other diseases.

Low-Maintenance Roses For Everyone

These landscape shrub roses were a small percentage of the rose market in the 1990s, but today are exploding in popularity. The reason? These new shrub roses don’t require spraying, harsh chemicals, pruning or lots of water. They are also tough as nails, surviving the hottest summers and harshest winters.

Easy Does It

The Oso Easy® series from Prov­en Winners is known for its disease resistance. These roses also don’t require any spraying or pruning. Each rose in the series has green glossy foliage complementing the bright flower color.

Knock Out Roses

Perhaps the best-known landscape rose, ‘Knock Out’ bears masses of cherry-red blooms over dark red foliage. It’s disease resistant and blooms all season long.

Home Run Roses

Like its father (Knock Out), Home Run has excellent resistance to black spot. Unlike Knock Out, Home Run is also completely resistant to powdery mildew and has a higher level of tolerance to downy mildew as well.

Enjoyment All Summer

Shrub roses are easy to grow and are low maintenance. They are also ecologically—and pocketbook—friendly because they don’t require spraying. They work for mixed borders and beds and are compact enough to plant near walkways and other tight spots.

Roses need five to six hours of direct sun each day, so make sure you don’t plant in full shade. Avoid planting your roses beneath eaves or gutters so they are not damaged by falling water. These shrub roses don’t require heavy pruning, but you can prune to your preferred shape in spring.

Courtesy Proven Winners