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Mailbag: What size rose to plant? Is my garlic OK?

Potted roses can be transplanted now, but it's better to wait for bare-root season

Pink and white rose bloom
Secret, a hybrid tea, is one of the most popular roses in
Sacramento. It's no secret that roses can be planted any
time in the Sacramento region. (Photo courtesy Sacramento
Rose Society)
and Kathy Morrison

Q: What size rose bush should I purchase to plant in November?

-- Debra Gordon

A: If you’re planting in November, you most likely will be purchasing a bush from a nursery that’s already potted and has been growing throughout 2021. So, purchase a 5-gallon plant (preferably) or larger, at least if it’s a hybrid tea, floribunda, shrub or other full-size variety. (Miniature roses come in 1-gallon pots.)

If you can wait until December, you’ll find a much larger selection of bare-root plants. Those are 3-year-old bushes, ready to go in the ground (or pot), and an excellent value (compared to already potted roses).

When buying bare-root, make sure to rehydrate the roots in a bucket of water overnight before planting. Bare-root roses are field grown and dug up in late September or October. Their roots are wrapped in straw or other material, and the bushes kept in cold storage until (often wrapped and) shipped. They need a drink.

November is prime time for planting shrubs – especially with soft soil after recent rains. It’s easier to dig the hole, yet the soil is still warm enough to prompt root growth.

If transplanting a rose now, it likely will still have its foliage. Do some early pruning; reduce the plant’s canes by one-third in size. Cut out any damaged or dead growth. Loosen the rootball and add a little compost to the planting hole. Otherwise, skip fertilizing until February or March after the rose puts out its first new growth. With winter coming, the bush soon will drop its leaves and enter dormancy.

Even though we had rain, remember to water your new transplant. A full-size rose needs about 5 gallons a week until it goes into dormancy. Then, roses usually get enough water from winter rain.

Garlic sprouts and straw mulch
Give garlic a layer of light mulch for the colder months.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Q: This winter is my first fall/winter garden. I planted garlic 2 weeks ago thinking it would not sprout till spring but it has sprouted. Is that common and will it survive the winter? If not, should I pull it? Thank you. Your posts are very helpful.

-- David Weisbach

A: That sounds normal to me! If you planted the cloves 1 to 2 inches deep they should be fine.

Do you have any mulch on the area where it’s planted? Garlic appreciates a layer of light mulch such as straw or leaves. And keep weeds pulled, since garlic doesn’t like “competition.” Finally, don’t overwater — the rain we’re getting right now should be sufficient for a bit, but if we have a dry December, water only when the soil dries out.

Garlic’s a great crop for our area and you’ll be glad you’ve grown some.

-- Kathy Morrison


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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