Growing Roses Fearlessly
By Lee Macneil, North Reading Garden
When I have the opportunity to speak to people about
growing roses, there are a few comments that I hear repeatedly. The most
common is " Oh, I have tried to grow roses, they always die on me!" Another
one I have heard so many times is "I would never try to grow ROSES, they
need so much attention, and I donít have the time.Ē Well, I am here to tell
you that things are changing in the world of rose gardening. We are
entering an exciting new era of hardier, more disease resistant roses.
Combine that with safer and easier to use chemicals that keep our gardens
pest and disease free. New effective methods in organic gardening have also
been developed recently much to the delight of gardeners who choose not to
use synthetic chemicals.
Perhaps your experience with growing roses consisted of
planting a Hybrid Tea rose that was packed into a plastic bag full of
shavings. You bought it at a local department store, supermarket, or even
drug store. If so, donít blame yourself for losing that rose. Hybrid tea
roses (which have the flower style of a florists rose) are notoriously
tender in colder climates. The poor thing had its roots chopped back
mercilessly to get it into that skinny bag. And most of the roses that are
packed that way are older varieties from back when the rose breeders didnít
concentrate nearly as much on breeding roses that were disease resistant.
So in effect, you bought a handicapped rose. If it lived for a year or two,
you did really well.
These days, rose hybridizers (or breeders) are
producing many roses that are classed as Shrub or Landscape roses. While
most shrub roses do not have the high centered bloom of a hybrid tea, they
compensate by producing many more blossoms, and blooming nearly constantly
throughout the season. They are garden workhorses, providing beauty and
vibrant color in the border garden, or mixed perennial bed. I like to
recommend that anyone new to growing roses start with a potted bush from the
" Knockout" or " Carefree" named series. These roses can do very nicely with
nothing other than plenty of sun, and regular watering.
Try a shrub rose in your garden this year, it will
change your opinion about growing roses forever. You may even get totally
hooked on them, like me.
Feeding Backyard Birds
by Charlene Malek
Today one in three households in North American feed
backyard birds at an average of sixty pounds of seed per year. New
Englanders are the most enthusiastic providers with the highest percentage
of households. Although there is evidence that people were offering food to
wild birds many centuries ago, it was not until the 19th century that the
actual idea of enjoying birds simply for pleasure first emerged. The pioneer
of the feeding of birds was probably the German nobleman Baron von Berlepsch
in the 188Os. He used feeding devices and
to encourage birds, although part of his purpose was the supposed control of
insect pests. He poured fat on twigs of trees. Peanuts, as a food to attract
birds, were introduced in the 1950ís. Presently there is a range of food
types and equipment available that are scientifically tested by companies so
that feeding birds is practical and enjoyable.
In addition to commercial means to attract birds, a well-
planned landscape can beautify your property and also attract and feed
birds. Trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, native and cultural plants can be
utilized in your landscape plans. Grow a couple of plants from each of the
groups to provide seeds and fruits for all seasons.
Trees offer shelter for birds that visit your yard. Both
evergreen and deciduous trees can provide an escape from predators, a winter
shelter, or spring nesting place. Also the sap, seeds, and berries are a
source of food. Blue spruce, mulberry, and cedar are among the
Shrubs planted in groups allow birds a haven to scrutinize
your yard without the fear of being discovered by cats and other predators.
Some shrubs hold their fruit and seeds longer than others so check with your
garden center to be sure. Some that do sustain a food source are
cotoneaster, Virginia creeper, firethorn, and common juniper.
Flowering plants are a significant food source for some
varieties of birds such as sparrows, finches, and chickadees. At the end of
the blooming season, leave the dried flowers as is for the birds. Annuals
that produce seeds are cosmos, larkspur, snapdragon, and bachelor button.
Bee balm, tickseed, and purple coneflower are perennials that will add color
and a food source to your garden.
The secret to bringing birds to your backyard is to provide
diverse, appropriate habitat with vegetation that provides shelter and
natural food. These plants--and a water element such as a bird- bath or
small pool--also help attract insects that are dined upon by many bird
Bird watching is the second most popular passive sport after
gardening. With the arrival of spring, why not enjoy the beauty of songbirds
by placing feeders, commercial or natural in your landscape? You never know
who will come to visit!
The Importance of Garden Soil
By Lee Macneil, North Reading
A simple soil test is one of gardenerís most valuable
tools, and is one many of us often neglect. It provides detailed
instructions on how to amend your soil, and adjust your pH, specifically to
the type of plants you wish to grow. Vegetables, annuals and
perennials, roses, shrubs, fruit trees, and lawn grass all require different
levels of nutrients to perform at their peak. The soil test will show you
just how your soil measures up.
Our New England soil tends to be very acidic, usually
measuring 4.5- 5.5. Many common plants, with the exception of azaleas,
Rhodies, and Blueberries, prefer a higher pH. The test will tell you if its
necessary to adjust your soilís pH level and how to do it.
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst provides a
soil-testing lab for our region. They offer several basic levels of tests
ranging in cost from $4.00 for a simple pH test, to $50.00 for a hydrometer
analysis of soil texture. For the very reasonable fee of $13.00, they will
perform a standard soil test with organic matter determination. This
includes pH, buffer pH, Nutrient levels, heavy metal levels, (such as lead).
When you send your sample, you label it with exactly what type of plants you
are growing. The soil analysis includes the detailed recommendations for
adding nutrients and adjusting the pH specifically for those plants.
Testing your soil not only provides us with the key to
optimum plant growing conditions; it can sometimes save us money by showing
what we may not need to be adding to our soil.
Right now is the best time to test your soil because
samples should not be taken from freshly fertilized soil.
Please visit this link
www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest for the Umass soil lab. Their printable
brochure and order form contains full instructions for collecting the sample
and marking and packaging it. For further questions call the soil lab at
SOWING SEEDS INDOORS
By Charlene Malek
With the warm temperatures of
the past days, many people are beginning to "think spring" which means
sowing seeds for outdoor planting. A novice may ask why start plants
indoors? Besides providing a late winter project, it allows for the
gardener to plant flower seeds that are too small to begin growth outdoors
or that may take such a long time to bloom that they need a head start to
maximize bloom time. Among the annuals that will grow better if started
indoors are begonia, coleus, dianthus, geranium, impatiens, lobelia,
marigold, pansy, petunia, and snapdragon.
Most annuals should be started
indoors 6 to 8 weeks before being planted outdoors, some require 10 to 12
weeks of growth. Those mentioned above need the latter. Check your seed
packet to be sure. To sow your seeds, choose an appropriate container. You
can either purchase plastic or peat flats or make your own from clean, inch
deep containers that have drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the container
with a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. You can combine
your own or buy ready-made mix. The lightweight potting medium is more
sterile than regular potting soil and can help prevent disease which often
kills or damages young seedlings.
Fill the container to within
1/4 inch of the top with premoistened medium. Sow the seeds evenly over the
top. Cover the seeds only as deep as their thickness. Fine seeds do not
need covering. Label the container and place in a plastic bag tied tight to
keep in moisture. Place in indirect sunlight.
When seeds have germinated,
remove the plastic bag and place the seedlings in a sunny location. Water
from the bottom if possible to prevent uprooting the tender growth. Add
fertilizer to water once growth is evident. Transplant seedlings to their
own pot when two sets of true leave have developed.
Everyone enjoys the sight and
scent of fresh greenery in their homes during the Holiday season! However the
warmth and dryness of a heated home poses a challenge in keeping greens from
drying out and losing their vibrant color and fragrance and dropping their
needles and leaves. Properly cared for greens can last two to three weeks.
Those without a water source must be replaced much sooner. Here are some tips
for keeping holiday greenery looking fresher longe
* When cutting your own
greenery, cut in the morning or late afternoon, when plants are at their
highest water content. Greens that you may have in your yard that are suitable
for cutting are Ė Pines, Spruce, Fir, Cedar, Juniper, Boxwood, Holly,
Rhododendron, winter creeper and Ivy.