A GROWING CONCERN: Garden chores are arriving in full force

TIME JUST KEEPS growing on. It is already March 4, or day four of mid-late winter.

Spring is a mere 16 days away, and your garden chores are here in full force. They’ll soon be popping up all over the place, thanks to our mild winters here on the Olympic Peninsula.

Pruning — I just can’t hear you at it up here at my house. With so many plants needing to be thinned, headed, rejuvenated or hacked and whacked down — with full, precise intention, of course, then I should be able to hear those pruners cutting.

Today we talk about your roses and reducing them. But first let’s take care of a few extremely important tasks.

Water your bulbs. Yes, I mean it. Look for and water dry areas today. Many bulbs or other plants are located under your house’s eaves or other rain deflecting covers.

These areas are bone dry, so deeply water them to keep them from dying.

Get sweet pea seeds and soak them in lukewarm water overnight in a container with inoculant or a few tablespoons of old compost or aged manure. This is crucial for germination.

Tomorrow plant them one inch deep in the middle of a mounded row consisting of rich, deep, well-drained soil chock full of organics (this is also crucial).

Sweet peas are the greatest fragrant cut flower because of our perfectly ideal cool conditions on the North Olympic Peninsula. Do a few rows of snap peas and snow pods today, too.

Which brings us to the next task: getting ready for your vegetable garden.

If you have not done so already, go out and purchase copious amounts of old manure, compost, leaf mold or peat moss.

These staples are the miracle drugs of gardening. In a few more weeks you’ll be wanting to till this stuff in deeply and thoroughly, along with a generous application of veggie fertilizer, so go out and purchase them, beating out your neighbors on the best selection and prices.

This week is a great time to start leek, onions, garlic, peas and salad greens.

Indoors you should start germinating broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, beets, Swiss chard, brussels, sprouts and any other cool crop plants.

Get these going today so you can plant wonderful little starts in a month, for a May-to-June harvest.

Go and feed everything with its own particular food. Give rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and other acid loving plants their unique blend. Give the evergreens and shade trees their spring food. Your grass is so responsive to the ever-warming sun we will be getting soon, so get lime and a good spring feed down as soon as possible.

Remember, it can take two to six weeks for fertilizers to become readily available in the soil for the plant.

Weed, weed, weed now. Otherwise, you’ll lose the battle extra early this year.

Back to roses

I mentioned purchasing bare root plants last month, and this is a good time to locate some of your favorite varieties of rose bushes, replacing some of the poor performers and picking up some new varieties that are disease resistant and fragrant too.

You might be interested in the classic David Austin English roses, known for the extremely complex scents and ruffled edges, similar to the flower of a peony.

Some of your choices also include the Remembrance roses, or those named in honor of famous people: Princess Diana, Mister Lincoln, Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Streisand, Betty White, Claude Monet, Eleanor Roosevelt or Ingrid Bergman to name a few.

Floribunda roses are prolific bloomers, while patio roses for the front of borders or smaller pot areas are great choices for introducing fragrance and leaf texture into your gardens.

Then of course, we still need to get our existing roses pruned, so let’s get to this task.

But there are so many questions about pruning roses: Where and how for which type of rose?

The latter is the all-important question for it is what drives all rose pruning (besides wearing long leather gloves to protect your precious hands).

Above all else, you must first know the type of rose.

The type of rose dictates the way you cut, how high or low you cut, and how much old wood you save or cut away.

Cane management is the next vital step and the most difficult for Harry and Harriet Homeowner to perform.

It involves yelling, “timber,” because like raspberries, you totally remove all old canes.

You must do this to all roses at some time or other in order to keep new, lush wood growing.

This is the crucial link, because roses only bloom on new wood (or two year old wood for rambling roses).

Basically, remove the oldest, diseased, cracked, blistered, gray canes to allow new, select lower shoots to become replacement canes.

Thus, every year a few old, worn-out canes are removed, replaced by newly encouraged areas.

The perfect rose bush tends to have three to five canes. Some will have up to seven canes.

Ramblers, of course, have canes that radiate from the crown and only bloom on two-year old wood. They are best when trained on some sort of guide, and you are always removing three-year-old canes to allow new younger canes to come up, while leaving wonderful two-year-old canes to bloom.

As with any rose, begin by removing any dead or diseased wood and older canes.

Next, remove all branches that cross-over or through the plant.

Then remove all those weak, spindly branches, back to the main canes.

Finally make sure to remove all sucker soot below the graft (the knob), because the sucker shoots will destroy the plant.

Do these steps to your roses, regardless of the type. By removing the obviously weak, dead and errant growth, along with all rose debris on the ground, your roses will be in great shape for the coming growing season.

It won’t be long now, and the fragrance of your garden will be warming your heart as your walk out your front door, or over to the neighbor’s to enjoy a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, something to look forward to, after you finish treating any rose wounds that you received after your pruning chore today.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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