Growing Organic Roses

 

Few flowers can compete with the elegance and beauty of roses. Throughout history, and throughout the world, roses have been associated with beautifully maintained estate gardens. The good news is that you don’t have to be born rich, or own a large estate, to be able to enjoy a gorgeous rose garden. All you have to do is go to your local independent garden center to find a wide variety of roses you can plant at home and then learn the basic principles.

When you grow your roses organically, they are free of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals that may be harmful to our family and pets. Organically grown roses offer us the option of using the pedals and other parts of the plant in our food arrangements, making rose tea, distilling rose water, blending potpourri and even concocting homemade cosmetic products. Just the peace of mind that comes with knowing that we are not exposing ourselves to anything potentially toxic is the most important thing. But just as the “organic life” is healthier for us, so is it for the roses too.

Easy Steps To Rich Rewards
Organic roses are fun and easy to grow. We just need to understand their four basic requirements: sun, water, feeding and pruning.

Sun
Full sunlight is best, although some varieties still perform well in less sunlight. If you do not have a lot of sun in your garden, the experts at your local independent nursery will be able to recommend varieties better suited for your location. Another advantage you gain by visiting independent nurseries is that they usually offer selections of roses that are not available at the big box stores. Also, I have experienced that they are usually more knowledgeable about roses in general

Water
Providing roses with the correct amount of water is very important. Please do not use sprinklers to water your roses, even in the morning! I have seen too many diseased roses that have been watered this way. Try to pay close attention to the wetness of your soil. Water if it is dry to the touch two inches below the soil surface.

Higher quality soil will be better able to retain water. Rich soils consist of a variety of organic components such as redwood, compost, peat moss and organic fertilizers. Wet the soil to the point that it looks and feels saturated at a depth of six inches. People often make the mistake of watering too frequently and not deeply enough. This approach will promote shallow root growth, which will make your rose plants less drought tolerant and susceptible to drought stress more quickly.

Deep roots, encouraged by deep watering, have access to more water, primary nutrients, and minerals and will support the production of more blooms in general. Deep roots also develop a more productive association with endo-mycorrhizae.

Roses are heavy feeders. They love their nutrients! Try to add as many organic amendments to the soil as you can. Your roses will show you their gratitude by producing an abundant crop of blooms.

It is best to add both amendments and fertilizer to your soil. Amendments come in the form of planting mixes, composts, soil conditioners, mulches, and other coarse organic materials that will directly improve the texture of the soil. They have some nutritional value, but not nearly enough to maximize your roses’ growth potential. Dr. Earth® Organic 3™ Rose and Flower Fertilizer will contribute greatly to your soil texture, but more importantly it contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, secondary nutrients, micronutrients and Pro-Biotic®, a champion biological soil inoculant that is perfectly formulated for rosarians who expect the best and demand the most.

Use Dr. Earth® Organic 3™ Rose and Flower Fertilizer for a completely balanced diet that contains everything a rose plant will require. Try to work the organic components (amendments and fertilizer) deep into the soil— at least 2 inches to 8 inches for maximum results. Organic nutrients are released slowly, as the beneficial soil microbes digest and decompose the nutrients and convert them into a form that the plants roots can absorb. This is the way nature indended.

Dr. Earth® Organic 3™ Rose and Flower Fertilizer contains mycorrhizae, a beneficial soil fungus that develops a symbiotic relationship with the roots of roses and other flowering plants, enabling them to absorb more water and nutrients. Michorrhizae also contribute to good soil structure and help plants to resist soil-borne diseases. All of this happens when we are organic gardeners; we do not have to apply chemicals to our soil to achieve maximum plant potential.

Pruning
Proper rose pruning is essential for a beautiful rose garden. I recommend that if you do not know how to properly prune your rose plants, take a rose pruning class at your local independent nursery. Many nurseries will offer these classes on weekends, free of charge. The more knowledgeable you are on proper pruning techniques, the more successful you will be.

The Rewards
Being an organic rosarian is a very rewarding experience. Organically grown roses are easy to achieve, especially after you have built a rich and nutritious soil. Organically grown roses can be more drought tolerant and disease resistant, and require fewer applications of fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides, because they have been grown steadily without the typical unnatural growth spurts that they experience with chemical fertilizers.

Please consult with your local independent nursery for more advice and tips on growing organic roses. I also enjoy listening to the smart hosts of radio gardening shows like John Bagnasco ad Sharon Asakawa of “Garden Compass” in Southern California, Mike Nowak in Chicago and Paul Parent in the New England area. These gardening gurus know roses and what makes them grow!

Growing Organic Herbs

 

Outside of my kitchen I have four wine barrels full of herbs. Just about every night, I harvest a variety of herbs and mix them into my salad, something I love to do.

I grow mint, mustard greens, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, coriander, and several other types of herbs that are stunning in color and taste. Nothing dresses up a plate of food like fresh picked herbs; they add excitement to flavor and presentation.

Where Do I Start?
Starting with a good idea of what you like to eat will help to simplify the choices and make your job easier. You must know if the herbs you want to grow will thrive in sunny or shady areas, or maybe a little bit of both. Ask your local independent nursery professional for the best varieties for your garden. You might want to have a couple of herb gardens.

I like to grow all my herbs in containers because it gives me the ability to place them where they will thrive best. Remember that sunlight is energy, so if those sun-loving herbs do not receive the required sunlight, they will not grow to their full potential. Seek the advice of a nursery professional when purchasing your seeds or transplants.

What Should I Grow?
I buy just about all the common varieties of herbs that will grow in my area. If I do not consume the herbs, I can be sure that they will be a beautiful addition to my garden. If you have a favorite herb that you like, focus more on that. If you enjoy mint lemonade once in a while, grow a little mint. If you love Italian food, focus a little more on basil and oregano. Salsa, anyone? Grow a bunch of cilantro! The idea is to grow a variety of herbs that you enjoy using even if it is only once in a while. Also, keep in mind that many herbs have medicinal qualities and may be very good for you, especially if they have been grown organically.

Preparing the Soil
Herbs, like most plants, will need good healthy soil to grow in. Soil rich in organic matter will yield the greatest harvest. If you are growing in containers buy the best quality potting soil you can find such as Dr. Earth®.

Fill the container to about two inches below the top of the pot. That allows enough space to comfortably water your plants as they grow. Use the best quality organic fertilizer, such as Dr. Earth® Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb Fertilizer. This will ensure your soil is packed full of nutrition for your herbs. Remember: you are what you eat! So feed your soil with high-quality nutrients. This way you will consume herbs that are packed full of nutrition for you and your family. The best tasting herbs are grown in rich organic matter.

I grow herbs every year and every year I give a few friends some young herb plants to grow. And every year the herbs I grow always taste better than my friends’ herbs. Last year I gave my neighbor three basil plants, the same exact variety that I was growing, from the same exact source. Even though the plants were grown next door in the same microclimate, they did not taste nearly as good as mine. Could I be biased, or is it the soil? Year after year, I taste different plants grown by friends and neighbors, and consistently my plants outperform theirs. I am convinced that it is Dr. Earth® soil and fertilizer that makes such a huge difference. My herbs taste like they were grown on an organic farm in the country, fresh and full of flavor.

Planting Trees & Shrubs

Select a site with good drainage and the proper sun exposure. If water stands, or the soil is often soggy, a raised planter may be preferable.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the root structure, and almost as deep as the root ball. Create a soil blend by mixing one part your soil with one part Dr. Earth® Planting Mix along with Dr. Earth® Starter Fertilizer according to product directions.

Remove container and carefully score and loosen the sides and the bottom of the root ball. Plant so that the top of the root ball rests one inch above ground level. Backfill with soil blend around the root ball, firming in the sides to prevent settling. Only backfill to existing ground level. Use the remainder of your garden soil to make a 4 inch tall raised ring around the edge of the hole.

Add more Dr. Earth® Starter Fertilizer according to product instructions around the plant, then mulch with a layer of Dr. Earth® Planting Mix two inches thick , being careful not to buildup around the trunk of the plant. Water thoroughly.

Before next watering, check the soil every two three days to a depth of two to three inches. Water only if soil is damp to damp dry. Soil should be kept moist, not soggy. When watering, fill the basin (the area created by the raised ring) slowly. This will ensure a thoroughly wet root zone and help to leach harmful mineral salts.

Repotting and Transplanting

 

My many years of experience have proven that repotting plants increases health potential and overall plant growth. There is nothing complicated about moving or repotting plants unless they are enormous. A large tree, for example, will require professional help, but the principles are still the same.

Potting Plants
The health of a potted plant will start to deteriorate if it has out-grown its container. Roots trailing from the bottom of the pot, leaf drop, and depleted soil are signs that the plant needs repotting. One or two pot sizes larger will usually be sufficient. Don’t be too eager to repot everything. Some plants (especially ferns) actually prefer slightly cramped conditions and many flowering plants bloom more prolifically if they are a little root-bound.

Before repotting, water the plant well. When the water has drained away, invert the pot, lightly tapping the sides to release the mass of roots. Add Dr. Earth Potting Soil® to the new pot, and then insert the plant so that it sits at the same surface level as before. Add Dr. Earth® Starter Fertilizer to the potting mix for maximum transplant success. Surround the plant with some more soil mix and firm in. Water the plant well.

Garden Plants
Plants established in the garden may also need moving if they have outgrown their site or are unhappy in a particular position. If possible, try to move them when they are dormant (usually in winter), avoiding extreme weather. If you have to move plants in summer, they will benefit from some temporary shade while they reestablish themselves. Cover the plant with some lightweight fabric and apply Dr. Earth® Planting Mix as mulch to protect the roots.

When moving a medium sized tree or shrub, it is best to break-up the project into a few sessions. Water the ground thoroughly, and then loosen the soil in a wide circle around the plant. Leave it for a few days then repeat the process, gradually digging deeper until it is possible to lift out the root mass. Always use a sharp spade, and if roots look ragged or bruised, re-trim them cleanly.

If you have to move a plant some distance to a new site, wrap its root ball in a piece of plastic or burlap. Plants that are difficult to handle can be pruned before transplanting. Prune them back by up to one-third to reduce the shock to their root system. Immediately transfer the plant to its new hole, adding fresh Dr. Earth® Planting Mix and Dr. Earth® Starter Fertilizer. Firm the soil around the plant and water in well.

If the plant is to have a period in a pot before it is planted, then choose a container only slightly larger than the root ball. Fill any gaps between the roots and the sides of the container with potting soil, then water well, both before and after potting. Only feed if the pot-bound period is to be an extended one.

A certain amount of transplant shock is almost inevitable with a mature specimen. Reactions can vary. The plant may look a bit weedy, or it may drop its leaves. If the latter happens, treat it with consideration, don’t let it dry out or drown. It should recover with time.

Seedlings
Seedlings are easy to transplant, as they haven’t had time to develop an extensive root system. If they have been grown in groups, separate them by gently pulling them apart, or if they have delicate roots, cut them apart with a sharp knife. Make a small hole in the ground, and then position the plants, firming the soil gently around them. Water the seedlings in well and ensure they are kept moist until they become established.

Indoor seedlings may need hardening off before transplanting. Place them in a sheltered place outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing exposure to full sun and night temperatures over a few weeks.

Seedlings in the garden can be reestablished in a new site that better fits your garden scheme. Dig them out carefully, retaining as much accompanying soil as possible, then plant them as above. Remember to feed every plant that is moved with Dr. Earth® Fertilizer. This will help to reduce transplant shock, increase transplant success, and ensure that your plants are off to a great start.

Gardening Basics

 

Enriching the Soil
In nature, dead or rotting vegetation, animal manure, and decaying animal remains provide adequate nutrition for the soil. As man removes the crops or gardens he grows, he must replenish the soil with organic material to maintain a healthy and productive soil. It’s a simple concept. You must replace what you take out.

Digging
Despite the activity of earthworms, burrowing animals, and penetrating plant roots, untended soil is still relatively hard and compacted. We can improve the texture by digging, or turning over the soil, to allow oxygen and water into the soil.

Seeding
In nature, A relatively small percentage of seeds germinate because of competition from other plants and poor soil conditions. In the garden, most seeds will germinate as they are given optimum conditions and spacing, along with organic matter and moisture.

Watering
Plants are dependent on water for their survival. Whereas adequate rainfall cannot be guaranteed in nature, in the garden, additional water can be given to plants at optimum amounts for maximum success.

Pest Control
Nature maintains its delicate balance by ensuring that pests and predators control each other’s numbers. Man can encourage and assist this process, while also protecting his plants, by using artificial means. Releasing ladybugs and praying mantises can control a wide variety of insects. Introducing beneficial nematodes in the soil can be of great help in controlling soil pests.

Finally. . .
Left to its own devices, nature would not produce a very abundant harvest, either in terms of quantity, or in the size of individual fruits. The harvest from cultivated ground that has been enriched and cared for will always outweigh what Mother Nature can produce.

Digging the Garden

 

You dig the soil for three reasons: first, to improve aeration; second, to improve structure; third, to incorporate organic matter and fertilizers that add nutrients to the soil. Gardens that have been badly neglected will need to be cleared before they can be dug. Normally, on a very overgrown plot, a trimmer will be needed to cut down the vegetation or, if you have the energy, a cultivator can be used. Compost or recycle all the perennial weeds, making sure that all weed seeds are far from the garden. Then, dig the plot.

Generally, you must turn the soil over with added organic materials for this kind of job. It gives you the opportunity to add compost or fertilizer to the soil and ensures that the soil has been dug to a uniform level over the entire plot.

On less overgrown gardens, you can usually get away with a simple digging. In other words, turn the soil over with a spade or fork to a more shallow depth. Using a fork has the advantage that it does not chop up the roots of perennial weeds, which will re-sprout if you do not remove all the tiny root particles. But it has the disadvantage that you cannot physically move the soil from one place to another with a fork. On heavy clay soil you may find that a spade or cultivator is the only effective tool.

A more drastic form of digging is double digging. It is sometimes required on previously uncultivated land that has been fallow and overgrown with weeds for a long period of time. This entails digging down about 8 to 10 inches and really turning the soil thoroughly. Doubling up on organic matter in the form of planting mix or compost will truly enhance your efforts.

Preparing a Seed Bed

 

Seeds need plenty of air in the soil if they are to germinate successfully. Soil in which seeds are to be sown directly has to be much finer in texture than normal garden soil. All stones, bits of twigs and clods of soil should be broken down and then raked over the soil. Leave the seedbed for a month before sowing. Then rake again. Water well before and after sowing, using the shower setting on your hose. All of these steps will help to ensure a good start.

Starting From Seed
Start with good quality seeds you can trust. Otherwise, the work and effort you have invested in preparing your garden will be wasted until the next season. Always follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for planting depth, moisture, and the time of year you should begin. Seeds vary and require different sets of standards in order to germinate properly. In general, if the bed is prepared properly, kept moist and weed free, you will have a successful garden from scratch. .

Fertilization
Prior to sowing your seeds, you should mix ample amounts of organic matter into your soil, along with Dr. Earth® organic fertilizer. Work both the fertilizer and organic matter into the soil, rake it smooth, water it thoroughly and let it sit for 30 days prior to sowing. After the seeds have sprouted, and have their first set of true leaves, it is always beneficial to give them a light foliar feeding to give them an extra boost toward becoming established. Use a liquid fertilizer that contains seaweed extract. Do not use a chemical, water soluble fertilizer as it has the potential to burn young plants easily.

Planting in Containers

 

Choosing a Container
It is important to choose a container that is big enough to accommodate the plant’s future growth. Next, check that the container has sufficient drain holes. Good drainage is very important!

Transplanting
Fill the container with Dr. Earth® Potting Soil until it is filled to a level that allows the base of the plant to sit one inch below the top of the container. Add Dr. Earth® Organic 2™ Starter Fertilizer according to the package directions. Holding the plant in the desired position, continue to fill in around the roots with potting soil and fertilizer mixture until the container is filled to one inch below the top of the container. Water thoroughly.

Existing Containers
Remove the top one third, and all loose soil from the existing container. Use your fingers, or a garden hose with low pressure to remove the soil. Replace it with fresh Dr. Earth® Potting Soil and provide it with a feeding with Dr. Earth® Liquid Solution™ to stimulate fast growth and stress recovery.

Your plants will love it!

Soil Structure

 

It is well worth knowing a bit about soil’s actual composition. Correct analysis of the soil is one of the key elements in the success of growing certain types of plants. The kind of soil you have in your garden—along with other factors such as climate and rainfall—determine which particular plants you can grow.

Since the soil is made up of mineral particles to which organic matter has been added, the nature of a particular soil depends on the nature of the underlying rock. If you live in a river valley—where particles have been ground down to form silt or clay—the soil will have different properties than it would in areas with only a thin covering of soil, where it is probably rocky or sandy. These underlying conditions also determine how acid or alkaline the soil is, another important factor in determining what kind of vegetation it will support.

Improving Soil Structure
Although nature can cope perfectly well with poor soil conditions—ensuring that only suitable plants will survive to propagate themselves—the gardener wants a far wider scope. To grow a larger range of plants than nature had in mind, it is important to improve the soil in various ways.

Clay
Clay has the finest particles of minerals and the least amount of air in its structure. Unless you work lots of grit and organic matter into it, it will be hard to grow a good range of plants in clay.

Silt
The particles in silt lie somewhere between those of sand and clay soils in size, and if it contains lots of organic matter, silt makes good garden soil. It has a silky feel and is often found in river valleys.

Sand
Sand has the coarsest particles of minerals and, although it is well aerated, water runs through it very easily. Sand needs to have plenty of organic matter added to it, to bind the particles and improve its moisture retaining properties.

Loam
This is the soil structure for which all gardeners aim: a good combination of organic matter with the basic mineral particles, whether sand, silt or clay. It is achieved by generous and regular applications of composted material.

Plants will not thrive unless they have a certain amount of oxygen for their roots, and heavy clay soil has such small particles that very little air penetrates it. In such circumstances, it is the gardener’s job to create a more porous texture to the soil, normally by adding lots of organic matter, and possibly some grit. Another way of improving heavy clay soil is to add gypsum. If the soil is very heavily waterlogged and fails to drain well, you may consider creating some form of artificial drainage as well.

With light sandy soil, the main problem is that it drains too freely and retains very little moisture. In periods of drought, therefore, plants will suffer and possibly die. Again, the answer is to add plenty of bulky organic matter to help bind the particles together.

To find out what your soil consists of, take a lump of it in your hand and crumble it between your fingers. If the soil is very sandy, you will actually hear the sound of grains rubbing together, and feel them between your fingers. A less sandy soil often found in areas surrounding a river bed is silt, which has a soapy feel to it. Clay is very heavy and sticky with a glaze on its surface that causes it almost to shine.

These are the basic soil types that you will find in your garden. What you have to do is create a loamy soil, a rich mixture of soil that feels light and friable to the touch, and has a pleasant, brown, earthy color to it. This quality of soil encourages earthworm activity and is well aerated— because it is neither too dense nor too crumbly—and holds moisture to the right degree for microbes, mycorrhizae and, most importantly, for plant roots.

Dr. Earth® products contain the right proportions of microbes and mycorrhizae, blended with premium organic materials to help correct and enhance all soil types.

Natural Lawn Care

 

The way to a lush green lawn begins with an understanding of how lawns grow and a respect for the needs of the grass plants. Misunderstanding and mistakes abound, especially in the areas of mowing, watering, and fertilizing. Let’s take a look at these aspects of lawn care.

Mowing
How high or low you set the mower blade is based on the needs of the grass plants at the time, and that can change with the seasons. But one of the biggest mistakes people make is setting the blades too low. Their theory is that by cutting the grass very short they won’t have to mow as often. What actually happens is that they are putting the health, and maybe even the life, of their lawn in jeopardy.

For one thing, photosynthesis takes places in the blades of the grass, creating sugar as a food source for the roots. When the blades are cut too short, the plants are stressed in their attempt to make an adequate supply of sugar and must work harder. The result is actually faster growth. And the way to thicken the turf is to be sure the plants are allowed to make not only enough, but more than enough, sugar. That excess goes into the production of new plants, called rhizomes.

Another factor to consider is the competition between the grass and the weeds. Whichever one gets the most sun will shade the other. Without enough sun plants can’t carry on photosynthesis and they die. You want to give the grass the advantage. Longer blades mean better health, and their length and density will allow the grass to outcompete with weeds. With too much shade, weed seedling, especially, won’t stand a chance.

Therefore, during the growing season, set your mower as high as it will go. (That is probably 3 to 4 inches. As temperatures cool and winter rains begin, it’s a good idea to then lower the blades a little. The lower lawn height will allow the grass blades to ”dry off” faster, helping to prevent fungus and disease.

When you do mow, leave the clippings right on the lawn. As they break down, they add nutritious organic material that helps prevent thatch and feeds the plants.

Watering and Soil pH
As counterintuitive as it may seem, you should water your lawn LESS often for better results, BUT WHEN YOU DO, WATER DEEPLY. That helps to develop grass roots that go farther down into the soil. Grass watered frequently and shallowly develops shallow roots and the many horizontal runners that make up mat of thatch. If the grass doesn’t show any signs of drought stress, it may not need watering. If the lawn has become quite dry, it works better to give it only ½ inch, wait for about 90 minutes, and then give it another ½ inch. Add organic mulch in late spring to help reduce heat stress in the summer. Dr. Earth® Natural Choice® Compost makes an excellent top dressing or mulch.

You can check to see how much water your lawn really receives, by putting a cup in the zone of the sprinkler and running it for the normal length of time. You should see at least an inch of water in the cup.

Have the pH of your soil professionally tested because the inexpensive kits you can buy are often inaccurate. Your local county extension will sometimes test samples for free or for a minimal charge. Add lime if it is below 6.0 and soil sulfur if above 7.0. A higher number is more favorable to weeds, like dandelions, and grass prefers a pH of about 6.5, so accuracy matters.

Fertilizing
Grass consumes high levels of nitrogen. Weeds like clover, which are legumes, can draw nitrogen from the air but grass cannot, so their presence could mean your soil needs more nitrogen.

If your lawn needs fertilizer, apply Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer as recommended on the package. This will feed it and supply organic material to the soil for up to 3 months. Dr. Earth® contains PRO-BIOTIC™, beneficial soil microbes and 3 species of endo mycorrhizae. These living organisms develop a symbiotic relationship with your lawn, helping it to better absorb nutrients from the soil. They also aid in relieving drought stress by absorbing water from a much greater volume of soil.

Beneficial microbes in Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer not only help to digest the organic fertilizer, but also aid in the consumption of thatch. Some of the microbes even produce antibiotic compounds that suppress disease-bearing fungal pathogens, preventing them from becoming established in your lawn. The end result is a healthy, productive, weed, drought and disease resistant lawn that will give you years of enjoyment.