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Rose Garden

The rose garden is a tried and true beauty of landscapes, roses are one of the most widely cultivated garden shrubs. Known for their exquisite blooms and intoxicating fragrance the rose symbolizes love and passion throughout all cultures. There are over one hundred rose flower species known, and thousands of resulting varieties. Although they are popular as commercial cut flowers, roses are best known as for their graceful beauty as outdoor ornamental flowers. Planting a rose garden in your yard can bring that stunning beauty to your personal landscape.

Preparing for a Rose Garden

Rose Flower

Rose Flower

When the idea strikes to beautify the garden with roses, its best to take some time and put together a plan instead of haphazardly throwing plants into the ground. This will ensure the best possible results from the time and money spent.

First off, it’s necessary to look closely at the spot where the rose flower garden is going to be planted. Roses prefer sunny locations that receive at least 8-10 hours of full sun daily and spots protected from harsh wind and cold. Morning sun is better than afternoon sun to help burn off the morning dew, drying leaves and reducing conditions favoring fungal growth.

Roses are tolerant of varying soil conditions/textures but will thrive in slightly-acidic (a pH of 6-6.5), well drained soils that are high in organic matter, such as peat moss, compost or decomposed animal manures. If you are unsure of the soil pH, home kits can be purchased to test the soil or for a fee a sample can be sent to a local county extension office for testing.

Types of Roses for a Rose Garden

There are three main classes of garden roses, based upon history, how the roses grow and their breeding: old roses, modern/hybrid roses, and wild roses.

Old Roses: Old Roses are also known as antique or heritage roses, and have been around for almost 150 years without any changes. They flower once per season and are known for their strong fragrance.

Modern/Hybrid Roses: Modern/hybrid roses are the ones people tend to think of when the vision of a rose comes to mind. They were created by taking the best parts of old roses and selectively breeding to establish new varieties that are brighter, have a specific bloom size and fragrance. Modern/hybrid roses are bred to resist disease and flower longer to provide steady color and beauty in landscapes. Hybrid tea roses are by far the most popular rose grown. Known for their long, sturdy stems and stunning blooms, they are the flowers bought in floral shops and supermarkets.

Wild Roses: Wild roses have been growing, uninhibited and unaltered, for thousands of years with little help from mankind. They have brightly colored hips and typically bloom in shades of red, pink and white. Wild roses are very easy to maintain, are very hardy and bloom once per year.

Within the three classes of roses, there are more than a hundred different species available for purchase. These three classes can be described by 4 different forms they can take: climbing, miniature, shrub, and tree roses. Each form has different spatial requirements and function in a garden landscape.

Climbing Roses:  Climbing roses are great for creating barriers within a landscape, or training over privacy screens. They do not climb like a pea plant will climb a trellis but instead grow long canes, or vines, that can be trained to an arbor or trellis creating beautiful walls of flower within a landscape.

Miniature Roses: Miniature roses are perfect for gardeners who have limited space in their garden. They grow to be about 1-3’ tall and have smaller blooms compared to the other forms. They are ideal for container gardens, or indoor gardens, providing the exquisite beauty of roses in a smaller size.

Shrub Roses: Shrub roses are what people typically think of when the idea of roses in a garden or flowerbed comes to mind. They grow upright, or along the ground, but do not need supports to keep them erect. They are great for landscaping and typically grow to be 4-6’ in height. Shrub roses come in a variety of colors and are usually repeat bloomers, bringing a steady stream of colorful beauty to a garden.

Tree Roses: Tree Roses are formed by grafting a shrub rose onto a towering cane. They require special care needing protection in the winter and careful pruning to maintain their unique shape. Tree roses grow wonderfully in containers.

Orange Rose Garden Flower

Orange Rose Garden Flower

Planting a Rose Garden

When planting a rose garden, pick locations that are well drained and give plants plenty of space to grow. Cover the soil with a layer of mulch 2-4” deep to help retain soil moisture and water well twice a week.

Roses are a summer flower so they will survive on little moisture but flourish when water encourages the root system to grow deep into the soil. Plants grown in containers should be watered at least once a day, if not twice if containers sit in a sunny location, to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out causing undue stress on the plants.

In general, roses are heavy feeders, requiring frequent feeding for optimum growth. Nitrogen will promote lush, green, vegetative growth; phosphorus strengthens the root systems and encourages beautiful blooms; potassium encourages vigorous growth and helps roses protect themselves from pest damage, drought and cold. The choice of an organic or inorganic/synthetic fertilizer lies in the hands of the gardener and their growing philosophy.

A well balanced fertilizer containing all of the nutrients needed for growth is necessary to meet all of the plant needs and should be applied when there is 4-6” of new growth on the plants. For granular fertilizers, apply plant food at the recommended rate every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Liquid fertilizers are meant to be applied more frequently and are delivered at the time of watering. No matter the type, remember fertilizers are essentially salts and need to be watered well into the soil to prevent damage to the to the roses’ roots.

Rose Garden Care

Single Purple Rose Garden Flower

Single Purple Rose Garden Flower

Besides feeding roses the nutrients they need, it is important to prune plants to achieve maximum blooms. The best time to prune most roses is after the first seasonal frost in the spring but before the plant breaks its dormancy. Pruning can be accomplished in a couple of different ways, with the primary goal to keep the center of the plant open to encourage good air circulation and prevent disease.

Basic pruning involves removing dead, diseased and damaged branches. Cuts should be made on a slant to allow water to run off the wound. For most rose bushes prune the plant down to 6 to 8 healthy canes to produce a plant with good shape. This will also help to prevent overcrowding. Most blooms occur on new wood, with reduced blooms on old canes. Where to cut and how much plant to remove will vary depending on the variety and the rose form.

Roses are a beautiful addition to any garden and the numerous varieties available allow the gardener to creatively design a stunning display of colorful blooms. To garner optimal growth and blooms make sure to plant in sunny spots that have good drainage and air circulation. Fertilize roses with a general purpose, balanced fertilizer or a plant food specific to flowering plants. Prune plants to maintain the best shape and encourage healthy, well spaced blooms. And most important, make sure to take the time to enjoy their delicate fragrance and gorgeous appearance!

Rose Garden2018-12-23T14:28:12-05:00

Home Composting

Home composting is one of the best ways to add organic matter to your garden soil. Many people choose to make their own compost instead of buying it. This allows them to know exactly what goes into the product and also helps to cut down on food/green waste from their homes. Very simply put, home composting is the process of heaping green waste (yard clippings, food scraps) into piles and letting it break down into humus after weeks or months.

What is Home Composting

Home Composting

Home Composting

The composting process is amazingly rich in nutrients and helps immensely to improve soil structure and drainage. It is used extensively in gardening, landscaping, and both commercial horticulture and agriculture applications. Adding compost also aids in ecosystem sustainability by reducing erosion, increasing the soil population of beneficial microbes, and lessening synthetic, chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.

How to Make a Compost Pile

Making your own compost does entail more than throwing yard and table scraps into a heap in the corner of your garden though. It is important to learn how to start composting and understand the composting methods to produce high quality compost for your garden and flowerbeds.

  • Clear a space in your yard/garden exposing bare earth to start your compost pile on. This will allow worm composting to begin. Earthworms and other beneficial organisms will come up out of the soil into the compost pile. These organisms drive the decomposition process.
  • Spread a layer of straw or twigs down on the bare ground. A couple inches worth of material will suffice, and will help to aerate the pile and provide good drainage.
  • Add materials to be broken down in layers, alternating between wet and dry layers. Wet layers consist of food scraps, tea bags, etc. Dry layers can be straw, dried leaves, sawdust pellets, etc.
  • Incorporate a nitrogen source such as manure or grass clippings. Nitrogen is needed for the decomposition process and will help to activate the pile.
  • Water the pile occasionally, or let natural rainfall do its job. The compost pile should be moist but not overly wet.
  • Cover your compost pile with plastic sheeting, wood, or anything you have available. This will keep extra rainfall from making it too wet while also retaining moisture.
  • Every couple of weeks “turn” the pile with a shovel or pitchfork. This adds oxygen to the pile, a key component in the process.
  • Add new materials by mixing them in when you turn the pile instead of layering them.

There are many options available if you want to purchase a compost bin tumbler or a home composting system, but just having a compost pile in your yard will work just as well. It just needs a little extra help from you as you need to turn it periodically.

Compost Bin

Compost Bin

Best Compost

The secret to maintaining a healthy home composting pile is the correct ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Most decomposable materials are carbon or nitrogen-based to varying degrees (for simplicity sake). Carbon based  materials give compost its light, fluffy body and typically consists of items that are more wood based, or fibrous: dried leaves, branches, stems, sawdust, tree bark, corn stalks, wood ash, pine needles, peat moss. Nitrogen or protein-rich material (manures, food scraps, green leaves) provides the raw materials needed for the enzymatic reactions that must occur. A simple rule of thumb is to make sure your compost pile has 2/3 “brown” (i.e. carbon based materials) and 1/3 “green” (nitrogen based) materials. You always want the ratio to skew towards more carbon than more nitrogen. The brown materials tend to add bulk to the pile without adding a lot of weight and help encourage air circulation, allowing oxygen to penetrate.

As the bacteria in the pile work to break the materials down, it will cause the compost pile to heat up and turn some of the moisture into steam. This is not a problem! Just make sure to actively manage the pile. As the temperature rises in the compost pile it will become necessary to add more water and turn the pile more frequently to allow the process to continue.

Materials to Avoid in Home Composting Pile:

  • Raspberry brambles
  • Big branches
  • Pet waste
  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Dairy products
  • Diseased plants
  • Fats or oils
  • Pressure treated wood
  • Black walnut leaves or twigs

When your compost is ready to use it will look, feel and smell like really, really dark soil. Your pile will have shrunk significantly in size to about one-half its original size and none of the original materials will be recognizable. The pile will no longer be generating heat the way it did when the process was active.

Benefits of Composting

Making your own compost is a great way to break down yard and kitchen scraps while creating a product that will greatly enhance the quality of your garden. Compost will add nutrients and beneficial microbes to the soil while increasing the drainage, and enhancing the soil structure.

Home Composting2018-03-16T22:57:16-04:00

Butterfly Garden

A Butterfly Garden is very peaceful and cathartic. Sitting in the garden, enjoying the beautiful flowers and watching vibrantly colored butterflies flutter around, dancing on the breeze. Butterfly gardening is the art of planting species that will entice them into your yard, and is growing in popularity. With a few simple tips you can encourage the beauties to take up residence in your butterfly garden.

The most important aspect to a butterfly garden is planting species that attract the butterflies. There are two types of butterfly garden plants they need: ones that provide nectar for the adults to eat (nectar plant), and those that provide food for their young (host plant). After plants have been chosen, encourage blooming seasons to last as long as possible, lengthening the feeding window for butterflies.

Butterfly Garden

Butterfly on Flower

Butterfly Garden Plants

The following list details some of the most popular garden butterfly plants to attract butterflies.

Aster Flower

Aster Flower – Growing upwards of 6’ tall, with dozens of blooms on a single plant, asters make a great addition to any butterfly garden. Asters are daisy-like perennials that bring a variety of colors to your garden throughout the entire growing season.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm – A north-American native perennial, butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds alike are highly attracted to the bee balm plant. Bee balm grows up to 4’ tall and produces brightly colored tubular blooms that are a fantastic nectar source. Deadheading flowers after blooms are spent will encourage a second round of blooms.

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan – A fantastic native plant, black-eyed susans are an incredibly drought resistant perennial. Their blooms of yellow and orange draw in butterflies and hummingbirds to feed on their nectar.

Coneflower

Coneflower – This daisy-like perennial blooms midsummer and are relatively drought tolerant, making them a great addition to gardens in hot climates. Also know as Echinacea, coneflowers make great cut flowers as well and are a popular deterrent for deer.

Dogbane

Dogbane – Similar in appearance to some milkweed varieties, dogbane plays an important role in butterfly gardens. Dogbane plants are a great nectar source for butterflies early in the season before many other plants are blooming. Classified as perennial, this herb is known for its clusters of dainty, bell-shaped pink flowers.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod – Often considered a weed by gardeners, goldenrod is primarily found in open areas such as prairies, and meadows. Goldenrod plants do have many useful properties though and are finding their way into garden landscapes. These late-blooming plants are known for their ability to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds and also have many healing properties. Planting goldenrod near vegetable gardens will draw insect pests away from valuable plants.

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks – An impressive plant in a butterfly garden, hollyhock stems can reach a staggering 9’ tall under the right growing conditions! This adds a lovely vertical element to a gardening space. Hollyhocks are a short lived perennial; most varieties will need to be replaced every 2-3 years. One benefit however to growing hollyhocks is their ability to reseed themselves. If left to go to seed, under appropriate conditions, they will continually grow new plants.

Lupine Flower

Lupine Flower – Available as both annuals and perennials, lupines are a butterfly garden favorite. Lupine plants develop stiff, erect spires of flowers that can reach 4’ in height. Purple is the most common variety but lupine but can found in a wide range of colors.

Milkweed

Milkweed – Although a very useful plant, common milkweed is often treated as a weed and removed from gardens and landscapes. Milkweed contains a mildly poisonous, sticky sap within its leaves and stem. This bitter taste deters many of the animals and insects that try to feed on its leaves. Butterflies however, are immune to this toxin. By feeding exclusively on milkweed plants, butterflies can accumulate enough of this poison in their bodies to make them taste bitter to their predators.

Pansy Flowers

Pansy Flowers – Known for their colorful “faces”, pansies have one of the widest ranges of colors and thrive well in containers, or when planted in ground. They are treated as annual plants due to their legginess but will come back if left to go to seed. Pansies prefer sun, but like cooler temperatures. They also need plenty of water to thrive.

Russian Sage

Russian Sage – The purple blooms of Russian sage, when paired with the delectable fragrance, make this perennial plant a proven butterfly attractant in any garden. Its silvery foliage and small purple flowers will draw butterflies into the landscape in a single season.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta Daisy – Similar in looks to the wild daisy found along roadsides, the Shasta daisy is a classic perennial. Its blooms are larger and more robust than the wild variety, blooming in gorgeous clumps that grow 2-3’ tall and 1-2’ wide. Shasta daisies are easy to care for, requiring deadheading as needing and dividing every 3-4 years to promote plant vigor.

Snapdragon Flowers

Snapdragon Flowers – A cool season flower, snapdragons add beautiful color to gardens early in the spring and then again in fall. Snapdragons are available in most colors, to coordinate or contrast with other garden plants. Their tall spikes make for a longer blooming period than many other plants.

Verbena

Verbena – This versatile plant makes it home in many gardens due to its ability to thrive in hot conditions and its tendency to attract butterflies. Verbenas have a long blooming season, and come in a variety of colors. Adult butterflies are drawn to the nectar-rich verbena flowers, while the plant overall acts as a deterrent for deer and rabbits.

Zinnia Flowers

Zinnia Flowers – One of the easiest annuals to grow, zinnias provide a wealth of color in a garden landscape as well as attracting butterflies. Zinnias grow best from seed and require little care other than deadheading flowers as needed.

At one time, butterfly bushes were widely recommended for butterfly gardens. The popular garden varieties imported from China are now being classified as invasive species, or even noxious weeds, in many areas as they are crowding out native food that is essential to local wildlife (butterflies and birds specifically). There are some non-invasive American varieties of butterfly bushes that can be purchased. Check with your local garden center or county extension office for more information.

There are many plants available – a variety of annual and perennial species – that can be planted in a garden to draw in butterflies. Some plants draw them in by providing food for butterfly larvae, others entice butterflies with their nectar. Planting a variety of the above plants will give butterflies plenty of feeding sources in your garden, encouraging them to stick around.

Butterfly Garden2018-03-16T23:39:33-04:00

Germinating Seeds

Germinating Seeds is great if you are looking to garden on a budget, or just feel the need to be completely self-sufficient. If either is the case, then starting seeds for your garden may be a great solution to consider. It does take more time and patience than buying seedlings from the local nursery but there is a great sense of satisfaction in knowing you cultivated plants solely by yourself.

Germinating Seeds Basics

Before you get started there are a couple of important aspects to consider when starting seeds for your garden.

  1. Timing – plants need to be planted in the ground at a specific time in order to avoid frosts, and nighttime temperatures that are too low for tender plantlets. You will need to figure out germination times, and about how big you want plants to grow before planting. You can then determine when to start your seeds based on this. Many seed packets will state on the back of the package when to sow inside to help with your planning.
  2. Equipment – you will need to invest in supplies you might not necessarily have on hand. This does add to the upfront costs of your garden endeavor but seeds are much cheaper to buy than seedlings/plants. These supplies can also be reused the following year if you want to repeat the process.
  3. Space – germinating seeds indoors will need a dedicated space that is warm, free from cold drafts, and receives adequate light (unless you are purchasing growing lights). The space you have to work with in your home is most often the limiting factor.

Germinating Seeds Supplies

After the timing is figured out, you will need to have the following supplies on hand:

Seeds – Some of the easiest plants to start from seeds are tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, and cabbage. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, first choose a handful of plants that you (and your family) will eat, and then pick a couple of different varieties. Seeds can be found online, at local nurseries/gardening centers, and at most big box retail stores.

Planting trays with covers – Seeds can be started in almost any kind of containers, but using seed starting trays is the most convenient way. If you are using your own containers they will need to be sterilized in a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) and rinsed well prior to using. There is no need for containers to be bigger than 3-4” across, since plants will be transplanted outside once the weather permits. In the early stages of growth, covers are beneficial to help maintain a moderate level of humidity in the trays.

Potting soil – For the best chance of success, purchase a growing medium that is specifically designed for starting seeds. It will be light and fluffy allowing the roots to grow down through the potting soil and will hold just enough moisture without encouraging disease.

Water – This seems like a no-brainer, but your seeds will need plenty of water/moisture to get started. The tricky part is not overwatering them and encouraging disease/mold growth. Seeds may need to be soaked prior to germination (your seed packet will tell you if they need this step), growing medium will need to be moist for planting, and then seedlings will need to be watered, preferably from the bottom, as the soil dries out.

Sunlight – To keep your new plants from getting tall and spindly (i.e. “leggy”), they need plenty of light during the day. For optimum growth they should receive 12-16 hours of bright sunlight. A window with southern exposure will work the best, if available. Chances are though, to get the most robust growth you will need to invest in some growing lights.

Germinating Seeds Instructions

The actual process of germinating seeds is fairly simple.

  • Moisten potting soil in a large bucket, or bowl, adding enough water until the mixture “clumps” together when you grab a handful. Make sure it isn’t overly wet and dripping water.
  • Fill planting containers with moistened potting soil. Pack the mixture down moderately to fill in any gaps or air pockets.
  • Seed packets will tell you whether the seed needs light or complete darkness for germination and if they need to be soaked in water before planting. If they need light, sprinkle seeds on the surface of the soil; seeds that require darkness need to be planted beneath the soil surface. The general rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth that equals 2-3 times the width of the seed. It’s best to err on the side of caution and plant seeds too shallow, than too deeply.
  • Moisten newly planted seeds with a mister or spray bottle, cover with a lid to maintain humidity and place in a warm spot to germinate.
  • Keep the soil moist but not sopping wet and check on the planting trays frequently. When your seedlings begin to emerge remove the cover to allow air circulation. At this point move your trays to a south-facing window or place growing lights about 3” over the tops of the plants.

When your seeds are ready to be moved outdoors, give them some time to acclimate to the climate before putting them in the ground. A few days to a week before you plan on putting them in the ground put the planting trays/containers in a protected spot outside for a few hours. They do need to be brought in at night! Gradually increase the exposure to wind and sunshine until it’s time to plant.

Planting your own seeds can be a rewarding, and budget-friendly way to start a garden. Some seeds need to be started indoors giving them time to grow before they can be moved to their spot in the garden. These tips and ideas will help make your seed starting venture a success!

Germinating Seeds
Starting Seeds
starting seeds outdoors
Planting Seeds Outdoors
planting seeds
Germinating Seeds2018-03-14T01:08:40-04:00

Sunflower

Sunflower (Helianthus annus)

The sunflower can be spotted in yards and gardens across the United States. Growing sunflowers is simply as easy as sowing seeds and these beauties can make a stunning addition to gardens without being time and labor intensive.

Sunflower

Sunflower

  • Scientific Name:  Helianthus annus
  • Life cycle:   Annual
  • Soil pH:  6.0 – 7.5
  • Plant hardiness:  All USDA zones
  • Light requirements:  Full sun
  • Water requirements:  Low
  • Fertilizer demand:  Low
  • Planting date:  After last spring frost
  • Flowering season:  Summer
  • Height:  Up to 16’
  • Colors:  Yellow
  • Pests:  Birds, squirrels, mildews, rusts
  • Propagation:  Seed

Sunflower Care

Sunflowers are summer flowers that grow in all USDA hardiness zones as long as they are planted in full sun locations. They need a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sun every day. The blossoms will “turn” to face the sun as it travels across the sky and can cast large shadows due to their size.

With this in mind, it’s best when growing sunflowers to plant them on the north side of vegetable gardens so they don’t shade out smaller plants.

They thrive in a variety of soil conditions but prefer loose, well-drained soil. This allows their long tap roots to stretch out and help anchor the top heavy plants. Sunflowers thrive in soils that are slightly acidic or slightly alkaline – with a pH ranging from 6.0 – 7.5 – which allows them to grow across so many hardiness zones.

They grow best from seed, begin planting sunflower seeds after the danger of frost has passed. If possible, work the seed bed really well in a 2 – 3’ diameter around where seeds will be planted and to a depth of 2’. This will prevent the soil from being too compact and encourage the spread of roots. Work a balanced, slow release fertilizer into the top 8” of soil and then plant seeds about 1” deep spacing then 6” apart.

A Field of Sunflowers

A Field of Sunflowers

After plants have germinated, water seedlings regularly at the root zone, about 3 – 4” from the stem of the plant. When the plants have established themselves well, switch to a more infrequent watering schedule to encourage deep rooting.

Sunflowers are drought tolerant and love the hot, summer sun, but they will benefit from a weekly watering from the time the flowers develop until they bloom. Adding a couple inches of mulch around the base of established plants will keep weeds down and also help retain soil moisture. Fertilizing sparingly to keep growth controlled; this prevents stems from breaking in the fall causing plants to topple over.

A full grown sunflower plant can range in size from a couple of feet tall (dwarf varieties) to towering heights of 16 feet. Their flower heads can span from a few inches across to almost a foot in diameter.

Due to the height of plants and the size of the flower heads, it may be necessary to help support established plants. This can be done with stakes or even simply tying them to a fence or other supportive structure.

Sunflower Pests

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers are typically resistant to most insect pests. Their seed-filled flower heads will attract birds and squirrels as the season progresses. If you have no intent on harvesting the seed then there’s no need to protect the plants from these nuisance animals.

But if you want to use the seeds put some barrier methods in place to keep animals from snacking. Home and garden centers – as well as online retailers – sell polyspun garden fleece that can be used to cover flower heads and protect them.

Periodically plants fall prey to mildew or rusts. Cultural methods are the most effective ways to prevent and/or control these diseases: keeping the garden bed weed free, allowing good air circulation around the base of plants, and watering early in the morning.

If the mildew or rust is caught early an application of a garden fungicide can protect the healthy, uninfected foliage; heavily infected plants should be removed and discarded to prevent the spread of disease to other garden specimens.

Sunflowers make a fantastic, cheery addition to any garden space. Needing minimal care in terms of watering and fertilizing they grow to stunning heights and produce dinner plate sized flower heads.

Sunflower2018-02-27T02:19:26-05:00