Organic Rose Keeping

Roses are generally difficult to care for mainly because of their susceptibility to insects, and disease. It is highly possible, and potentially easy, to keep organic roses without the benefits of pesticides to maintain disease. With good stock, care, and maintenance, it is quite easy, and quite rewarding to keep an organic rose garden.

If you have a choice of what type of rose to plant, don't make it a hybrid-tea rose. These have lovely flowers because they are bred solely for that purpose. There are modern exceptions that are starting to break the rules but for the most part disease immunity, pest resistance and overall pleasing plant form were not on the breeder's list of important items. Flower shape and color, fragrance and the ability to produce good cut flowers with long stems were the key goals.

The list of roses that are healthier, from heirloom or old roses bred before the late 1800's, to rugosa roses that are tough, fruit-bearing hedge material, is nearly endless. Try one of those and your work will be reduced tremendously. And there's no compromise on beauty or fragrance. A good nurseryman can easily point out which roses are best for you if you don't want to spray.

If you have heavy clay soil, access to regular watering and a spot where the rose can grow with good sun in well-circulated air, you are starting off with its preferred conditions and are likely to face fewer problems.

Plant roses a good distance away from each other if you can. If you plant flowers other than roses near them, beneficial insects will be around to keep predators down on the more delicate roses and they won't pass shared diseases from one to another. Companion plants will also screen the rose's somewhat leggy plant form. Lavender, rosemary, rue and wormwood are all traditional choices for this and are tough, disease-free plants. Keep open space around the rose so that air can circulate and keep the leaves dry.

Many of the harmful fungi and bacteria to which roses play host are returned to the plant when water splashes from the soil to the leaves. So be sure to mulch your soil often, and apply Perfect Blend All Purpose Biotic Plant Food 4-4-2 in smaller, yet more frequent doses (roughly 1/2 tsp once a month from March to September).

The debate over whether the leaves should ever get wet is fierce. Some say if you water at ground level and keep the leaves dry, the diseases that need moisture can't take hold. Others say that rain naturally washes the spores from the leaves, as does overhead watering and as long as the water doesn't splash back up from the ground, you are fighting disease and keeping the leaves dust-free, too. The best choice depends on the average humidity and rainfall where you live. Watering the ground around the base carefully, along with a light mist sprayer a few times a week will help keep your Roses healthy. Then again, it depends on your climate, and your roses.

Be sure to pick up ALL fallen debris from under roses and pick diseased foliage from the shrub and discard it. The diseases plan on falling to the ground and over-wintering till your roses are in prime condition to play host to them again and you can stop them by gathering them up and removing them from the scene with the fallen leaves.

All in all, roses can be a wonderful addition to a garden with their beautiful colors, and unmatched fragrance, they are sure to bring many years of enjoyment.


Tips and Ideas when Keeping Perennials

Perennials are plants that live two or more years; while the above ground parts of these plants generally die off to the ground by frost in the fall, but the roots live through the winter. Growth is renewed and the cycle begins anew in the spring.

While perennials do not require yearly replanting, they still require regular maintenance. With proper attention to these details, a perennial garden can provide color throughout the growing season.

Do a site analysis before purchasing or planting any perennials. Notes should be taken on soil type, exposure and the amount of sunlight, shade and wind that each perennial bed will receive. Most flowering perennials prefer six to eight hours of sun per day. Several perennials are adaptable to different situations, although certain conditions like heavy shade and wet soils will reduce plant selection. It is important all site conditions are known and that adaptable plant material is used.

Soil quality is probably the most important factor in determining the success of a perennial flower planting. Adequate soil moisture is needed during the growing season but it is very important that the soil not stay excessively moist during the winter dormant season. To improve waterlogged soils, add drainage tile, raise the bed or incorporate organic matter such as peat moss. Most perennials grow best in slightly acidic soils (pH 6.5 to 7.0). A soil test can be made to determine soil pH. Perfect Blend All Purpose Biotic plant Food 4-4-2 and Biotic Plant Food 8-4-2 are both good sources for maintaining proper pH.

Selecting Plants and Planting: Perennial flowers are sold both in containers and bare-root. Plants should be healthy and show no signs of disease or nutrient deficiency. Container grown plants should be removed from the container to examine the roots. Healthy roots should be white and be able to hold soil. Do not buy plants with dark colored and/or tightly coiled roots. Bare-root plants should be checked to ensure roots have not dried out and that the young shoots are not wilting.
Container Plants: Generally, container-grown plants can be planted throughout the season. Most often they are planted in the spring. Perennials that are grown in a greenhouse should not be planted until after danger of frost (32ºF) has past, much like annual bedding plants and vegetable transplants. Container-grown plants that have been exposed to outside temperatures throughout the winter can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked, about the same time trees and shrubs are planted. Fall planting of perennials promotes development of roots before onset of winter.
Bare-root plants: To avoid drying out, perennials bought bare-root should be planted as soon as possible. Roots should be spread out and soil placed and firmed between them when planting.
Planting depth: A majority of perennials should be planted out at the same soil level as they were in their containers or grown at (bare-root plants), adding 1/4 tsp to the bottom on the planting hole with also help plant take root in it's new soil.

Once established, most perennial flowers require only routine maintenance. Watering, fertilizing and mulching are essential maintenance practices that help perennials perform at their best. Thinning, pinching and deadheading are maintenance practices that promote longer bloom periods.

Watering: Although water requirements of perennials can vary greatly from species to species, most require supplemental watering until well established. One inch of water a week is suitable for plant establishment. Once established, many perennials will require watering only during prolonged dry periods. Select waterwise perennials to reduce the need for supplemental watering. Watering should be deep, infrequent and applied directly to the soil. This type of watering will promote deep rooting and will help reduce leaf diseases.

Fertilizing: Application of a 'starter' fertilizer, such as Perfect Blend All Purpose Biotic plant Food 4-4-2 and Biotic Plant Food 8-4-2, when perennials are first planted may aid in more rapid establishment of the root system. For established plants, an annual application of Perfect Blend All Purpose Biotic plant Food 4-4-2 and Biotic Plant Food 8-4-2 can be beneficial. Fertilizers high in nitrogen should not be used as nitrogen promotes excessive foliage production at the expense of producing flowers and a strong root system. Apply fertilizer so it does not come in contact with the leaves, as it may scorch them.

Staking: Exposure to wind varies with the site. Thought should be given to staking, particularly if growing taller perennials such as delphinium or lilies on windy sites. It is best to stake plants when they are first sending growth up because smaller plants are easier to work with and less likely to be damaged by staking. Staking early is also more aesthetically pleasing because new plant growth will cover the stakes. A stake two-thirds as high as the stem's mature height should be pushed into the ground near the base of the shoot. Be careful not to harm the plant's roots. Secure the shoot to the stake using twine.

Mulching: Mulch applied around perennials will help suppress weeds and improve soil structure while conserving soil moisture. Apply approximately 2 inches of a coarse mulch around the perennials, being careful not to apply too much around the crown of the plant. Excess mulch around the crown may hold moisture in and result in increased disease problems.

Weeding: Hand weeding reduces competition for water and soil nutrients.

Flowering: Thinning dead and damaged shoots during the early stages of growth encourages stronger and healthier shoots. In late spring or early summer, when the plant is about one-third of its mature height, pinching can be done to increase flower development and encourage side shoot development. Pinching back new growth will help produce bushier plants which are less likely to require staking. Unless seedheads are used for winter decoration or seed is to be collected from them, flowers should be removed when they begin to fade. Deadheading may also promote additional flowering.

Fall Cleanup: Once perennial plants have finished growing in the fall, cut the shoots down to the base (or leave 2 - 6 inches) and remove the debris. For plants that have some winter aesthetic value, like Sedum sp., cleanup can be left until spring.

Winter Protection: Perennials damaged or killed during the winter usually are not injured directly by cold temperatures, but rather by rapidly fluctuating soil temperatures known as frost heaving. Frost heaving occurs when the soil alternately freezes and thaws, resulting in damage to the dormant crown and root system. Mulching in late fall with woodchips, pine needles, clean straw or other loose materials will help stop frost heaving. Do not use tree leaves or grass clippings as they may compact around the plant. Winter mulches should be applied after the ground freezes, usually in late November, and removed in early to mid-March. Dividing: Most perennials can be divided, and in fact need periodic division to maintain vigor and maximum flower production. This may need to be done annually, as with hardy chrysanthemums, but is usually only necessary every three to four years. Some perennials, such as baby's breath (Gypsophila paniculata), should never be divided. The time of year when perennials are divided is a major factor in determining their success. Species that bloom from mid-summer to fall, are best divided in early spring, before new growth has begun. Perennials that bloom in the spring to early summer should be divided in the fall, or after the foliage dies. Exceptions are iris and daylilies, which are divided immediately after flowering.
To divide a perennial, first remove the plant from the ground by digging around and under the entire plant and lifting it carefully from the soil avoiding root damage. Shake loose soil off the roots gently. Remove and discard diseased parts and cut back the top of the plant (stems, shoots, leaves) to about 6 inches. Fibrous rooted plants can be divided by hand or by using two forks back-to-back. Divisions usually are taken from the outer perimeter of the plant, as this younger area tends to produce more healthy and vigorous growth. Plants forming a woody center or that have solid roots can be divided by using a sharp knife or a spade to cut through the crown. Divide the plant in such a way that each new division has at least three buds that will produce new shots.
Replant new divisions as soon as possible. Rework the soil if necessary to improve drainage and structure. Dig a hole of adequate size, allowing room to spread out the root system of the division when planting. Take care to replant the division at the proper depth. Water well and protect the plant from the sun on bright, warm days. A winter mulch is needed for divisions that are replanted in late summer or fall to help prevent frost heaving.

Insects and Disease: If the perennials are not growing well, in spite of using adaptable species and planting in suitable locations, check for insects and diseases.Thrips and aphids are common insects affecting plant growth. Mildews, leaf spots, molds, rust and viruses are common diseases that may infect perennial plants. To help prevent insect and disease problems, all debris should be removed from the garden and clean tools should be used.


Tips and Help with Annuals

For those of you who like extreme amounts of constant color in beds or containers, annuals are near perfection. Simple to plant and easy to maintain, annuals can turn your yard into a beautiful garden almost instantly, providing color and visual appeal all summer long. An annual is a plant that completes its life cycle, from seed to bloom and back to seed again all in a single growing season. Most annuals perform best if given a head start indoors, especially in northern climates where the growing season is shorter. So when you buy seedlings in pots or flats, you'll have beautiful blooms from early in the spring right through until fall. Annuals allow you to experiment with different designs and colors every spring. Since there are infinite varieties available, and new hybrids developing every season, you will never run out of choices to keep your garden looking beautiful.

Create a formal garden to tame a wild space; plant a relaxing informal garden with a free flowing design that imitates nature; put in a cutting garden of zinnias, snapdragons or pansies for a boundless supply of fresh cut flowers all summer long (the more you cut the more they bloom!); plant annuals to colorfully fill in spaces when your perennial garden is in between blooms; or create a border of annuals to edge your walkway or house, it will enhance the look of your home with beautiful colors.

Some general guidelines for planting and maintaining annuals soil: The majority of annuals prefer full sun and well-drained soil with a moderate humus content. If your soil is clay, you can add heavy dose Perfect Blend All Purpose Biotic Plant Food 4-4-2 in the spring, and again in the fall; after the first year, you should need only a light reapplication in spring. Some annuals, including cosmos, gazania and nasturtium, require little in the way of fertilizer and, in fact, do better in relatively infertile soil. Portulaca is at its best where the soil is poorest, which is why its multicolored roselike blossoms brighten so many seaside gardens. The same holds true for poppies, whose gorgeous blooms are at their best in the dry, fast-draining soil of stony banks and alpine rock gardens.

pH: If your soil pH falls within the 6.0-7.4 range, you should be able to grow most annuals. If tests reveal that your soil is too acid or alkaline, you can add some Perfect Blend All Purpose Biotic Plant Food 4-4-2 Fertlizer to aid in the balancing of soil pH. Some soils, specifically those found in the desert Southwest, are extremely alkaline and can't be modified sufficiently to suit the vast majority of annuals. This doesn't mean that Southwesterners are consigned to cultivating cactus. There are annuals, such as sweet pea, dianthus and strawflower, that do well in alkaline soils. Or you can fill planters with a good quality soil, and place them around the yard.

Choosing Annuals: Many annuals are easy to grow from seed, and some can even be started outdoors right in the garden, but if you plan to buy stock from a nursery, choose your plants carefully. Look for deep green, healthy plants that are neither too compact nor too spindly. They will do better if they are not yet in bloom when planted. If you can't plant them right away, keep them in a lightly shaded spot and keep moist by watering daily (especially particluarly hot weather).

When to Plant: Tender annuals cannot be planted until after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm. Half-hardy annuals can be safely planted if nights are still cool as long as there will be no more frost. Hardy annuals can be planted in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked.

How to Plant: The best time to plant is late in the afternoon. Before planting, water your plants and the soil in your bed well. Remove the plants from their pots gently to disturb the roots as little as possible. If they are in peat pots, tear the pots slightly to make it easy for the roots to grow through. If the roots are compacted, loosen them gently before planting. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball, pour roughly 1/4 tsp of Perfect Blend 4-4-2 in the bottom of the hole, and set the plant in at the same level at which it was growing. Carefully press the soil around the roots. Water well after planting and keep moist until the plants are established and new growth has started (usually daily, or every 2 days).

Sun: Most annuals like at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. There are many annuals that will do well in part shade or filtered sun. These include ageratum, browallia, coleus, dianthus, fuschia, impatiens, lobelia, pansy, salvia, Inca, and wishbone flower.

Fertilizing: Most annuals don't require a lot of fertilizer, but will do much better if adequate nutrients are available. In general, you can fertilize once or twice during the growing season with Perfect Blend's All Purpose Biotic Plant Food 4-4-2. Simply apply 1/4 tsp per plant, mixing in to top layer of soil.

Watering: Annuals need about an inch of water a week. If Mother Nature doesn't provide, you will have to help. General rule is, when it hasn't rained that day, water plants well. If it has rained lightly, water you rcontainer plants. On very hot days, be sure to water early in the early morning, being careful not to drip water onto leaves, or buds. When you must water, water deeply to encourage deep root growth. If you live in a very dry climate, or if you are concerned about conserving water, choose annuals that are drought tolerant. Try cleome, dusty miller, globe amaranth, petunias and zinnia. If your soil stays wet or boggy, try one of these varieties: browallia, fuchsia, nicotiania, or pansy.

Weeding: Weeding not only keeps the bed more attractive, but also eliminates possible hosts for insects and disease and allows the flowers to receive the full benefit of the available moisture and nutrients. Weed carefully when the annuals are young so as not to disturb the young roots.

Pruning: The amount of care required by annuals varies. Most will need to have faded flowers removed (called deadheading) to encourage new blooms and keep the plant attractive. Many will become bushier if the top is pinched out. Remove the plants in the fall when the foliage begins to fade.


Plant Glossary

  • Annual - A plant that completes it's life cycle in one year, or one season.
  • Arboretum - A landscaped space where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific study, educational purposes, and/or to foster appreciation of plants.
  • Axil - The area between a leaf and the stem where the leaf begins.
  • Bract - A leaf-like structure that grows below a flower or cluster of flowers that is often colorful. Colored bracts attract pollinators and are often mistaken for petals. Poinsettia and flowering dogwood are examples of plants with prominent bracts.
  • Cold Hardy - Capable of withstanding cold weather conditions.
    Conifers Conifers lack true flowers and produce seperate male and female strobili or cones. Some conifers, such as yews, have fruits enclosed in a fleshy aril.
  • Cultivar - A cultivated variety of a plant selected for some feature that distinguishes it from the species from which it was selected.
  • Deciduous - Having leaves that fall off or shed seasonally to avoid adverse weather conditions such as cold or drought.
  • Herbaceous - Having little or no woody tissue. Most plants grown as perennials or annuals are herbaceous.
  • Hybrid - A plant or group of plants that results from the interbreeding of two distinct cultivars, varieties, species, or genera.
  • Inflorescence - A floral axis that contains many individual flowers in a specific arrangement; also a flower cluster.
  • Native Plant - A plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention.
  • Panicle - A pyramidal, loosely branched flower cluster; a panicle is a type of inflorescence.
  • Perennial - Persisting for several years, usually dying back to a crown during the winter and initiating new growth each spring.
  • Shrub - A low-growing woody plant, usually under 15 feet that often has multiple stems and may have a suckering growth habit.
  • Taxonomy - The study of the general principles of scientific classification, especially the orderly classification of plants and animals according to their presumed natural relationships.
  • Tree - A woody perennial plant having a single, usually elongated main stem or trunk with few or no branches on its lower part.
  • Wildflower - A herbaceous plant that is native to a given area and is representative of unselected forms of its species.
  • Woody Plant - A plant with persistent woody parts that do not die back in adverse conditions. Most woody plants are trees or shrubs.