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Warm weather speeds up need for rose pruning

Spring growth is already coming out; act before fungi strike

Peachy rose bloom  with a bee
This bee appreciates a Marilyn Monroe rose
blooming in mid-January. However, roses need to be
stripped of all foliage now to prevent fungal
infections in the spring. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Nature is putting pressure on plants -- and us gardeners.

All this unusually warm weather is prompting rose bushes and other deciduous shrubs to force out new growth.

When it comes to roses, many of us are still pruning our bushes -- or just started.

What happens when new leaves come out while the bush is still clinging to its old foliage? That new growth is super-prone to fungal infection.

Spores of powdery mildew, rust, black spot and other fungal disease are hiding on those old leaves -- on and off the bush.

Record warm days are likely in the next week. That will speed up rose growth even more.

Rose leaves with black spots

These old leaves above must go!
Below, lots of new growth already
on this Pink Promise rose, which
still has healthy mature leaves.

With that in mind, here are a few timely reminders for rose pruning:

* Prune tall. Even if pruning the bush down to just waist high, that's something. Otherwise, new blooms may open far above your head. It's hard to smell roses when your nose can't reach them.

* Make your cut about 1/2 inch above a bud or node (where a leaf was attached) facing away from the center of the bush. That encourages outward growth and better air circulation, another way to cut down on fungal disease.

* Strip off ALL the old leaves. They carry problems and the bush needs room for new foliage.

* Pick up the old leaves and debris on the ground under and around the bush. That fallen foliage harbors more fungal disease.

* Change your mulch. This is important particularly if you had a bad outbreak of fungal disease or spider mites. Discard the old wood chips, etc., and replace with fresh mulch (such as wood chips, leaves or compost).

* Hold off on feeding your roses until February. It's warm now, but that could change. If we suddenly plunge back into cold days and frosty nights, all that tender new growth can be at risk.

Note for newsletter readers: Kathy in her shrub pruning post on Thursday mis-typed one of the common names of Podocarpus. It is fern pine, not fern palm, corrected on the blog but not in time for the newsletter.  (Bad finger memory to blame!)

Funny thing is, that plant is not a pine, either, and even has been reclassified recently from Podocarpus gracilior to Afrocarpus gracilior, a new genus. So goes botanical naming!


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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