Ask the Gardener-April 19th

AmericangothicWe have decided that there are so many great gardening questions, that we can’t possibly answer them all in our monthly newsletter.  So we are going to introduce this feature column that will be published every Monday.  We would like to invite you to submit your questions to us by either leaving a comment on the Ask the Gardener post each week or by e-mailing us your questions.  We will do our best to answer all of your questions either in this column or in our monthly newsletter.  So don’t be shy!  Ask away!

Today we are going to answer one of the great questions we have received via e-mail from one of our newsletter subscribers.

How can I get my lifeless clay dirt to grow healthy vegetables?

This is a great question!  And it brings up an important part of gardening:  soil.  In order for plants to grow, they need to be able to establish a healthy root system.  In order to do this, the soil needs to be loose and enriched with nutrients.  The problem with clay soils (and we deal with this too), is that they tend to be heavy and lack essential nutrients that the plants need.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the best scenario for healthy plant growth.  So what does one do when they are faced with soil such as this?

The first thing that you need to do is to add organic material to the clay soil.  When you have done that, add some more.  We like to use humates, or humic acid, which are in essence dinosaur poop.  You can find this at your local garden center.  We also use leaves, compost and grass clippings.   You can add the grass clippings from your lawn, as long as you haven’t treated the lawn with weed killer.  When you add lawn clippings that have been treated with weed killer, you are just asking for trouble as most weed killers will also damage the plants in your garden.  Not exactly what you are trying to do when you are growing a garden.

Work the organic material into the clay soil until it is loose and light.  This will enable your vegetables to establish a great root system and to breathe.  Yes, I said breathe.  We are taught in school that plants provide oxygen into the air for us to breathe.  What isn’t taught, is that plants use just as much oxygen as they generate.  The roots of the plants need oxygen to survive.  When they are planted too tightly in soil, it makes it difficult for the plant to breathe and it will eventually die without the oxygen that it needs to flourish.

You will want to add organic material every year.  This will help you to improve your soil and maximize your potential for a successful garden year after year.

So what is your gardening question?  Leave a comment below with your question or you can e-mail us at

How to Dry Fresh Herbs

With the price of everything going up this year, you may want to plan on cutting some costs in the kitchen and dry your fresh herbs from your herb garden. Although it may seem a little early to be discussing this, it is never too early to plan. You may want to increase the size of your herb garden to be sure that you will have enough to use throughout the year, both fresh and dried.

So, how do you dry the herbs you have grown in your herb garden? The good news is that it really isn’t too difficult. Here is a video to help you get the most out of your herb garden this year.

Planning ahead is always essential in gardening. With a solid plan, you will find you will have the greatest results and yields. Though it might seem you are planting an abundance to harvest, if you find you have more than you need for your needs both in fresh and dried, there are still things you can do with the excess.

• You can sell any extra herbs.

• You can share any extra herbs with your neighbors and friends.

• You can always donate any extra herbs to your local food bank or soup kitchen. They will thank you for your thoughtful gift.

Which herbs are you planning on growing this year? Will you use them fresh or dried? Or will you plan for both? Please leave a comment and let me know!

More Common Disease Problems in Roses

Photo Provided by FreeFoto

Photo Provided by FreeFoto

Yesterday we began discussing the many disease problems which can affect your roses. We covered how to diagnose and treat three different disease problems such gall, powdery mildew and downy mildew. Today we are going to talk about three more diseases which are common in roses and how to treat them.

Symptom: Yellow blotches on upper surfaces of leaves, small powdery orange or black postules on underside of mature leaves.

Cause: Rust—This is a fungal disease that may appear when days are warm and nights are cool and moist.

Treatment: Ensure that the rose plants have good air circulation and ample sunlight. If further treatment is necessary, you will need to treat with a fungicidal treatment that is listed for rust control.

Symptom: Brown dieback of cut canes; brown fuzzy mold on debris around the rose plant. In severe cases, the entire flower bud rots.

Cause: Botrytis blight (grey mold)—This fungal growth favors rainy cool periods or nights with high humidity.

Treatment: Remove all of the damaged areas of the rose plant and clean up leaves and debris from below the plant to prevent the fungus from spreading. Maintain good air circulation around your roses.

Symptoms: Dark black spots with irregular edges on the leaves. The spots tend to be round, varying in size from pinpoint to quarter-sized. Half of leaf yellows or leaf drops completely from the rose plant.

Cause: Black spot—This fungal disease favors rainy weather, poor air circulation or improper watering.

Treatment: Spray-Dust-Watering technique. After winter pruning, apply a dormant lime-sulphur spray. Remove dropped leaves and other debris. During the growing season, spray with fungicides listing rose black spot as a target on a rotational basis. Fungus spores are found on the undersides of leaves, so spray upward from underneath the rose plant. Spray in the early morning when the weather is calm and cool. Water your roses early to allow the foliage to dry thoroughly.

Now that you know some of the most common disease problems in roses, which ones have you had experience with? What have you done to control or eradicate the disease? Leave me a comment and share.