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This morning, I spent some time outside in one of my vegetable gardens with my granddaughter, Lily.

 cool season containers

While I worked, she had fun with the plants in my containers.  

 cool season containers

cool-season containers

My cool-season containers are in full bloom.  Leaf lettuce, petunias, garlic, parsley and nasturtiums are growing very well.

 cool season containers

My 1-year old tomato plants are huge.  They extend over the fence between my containers.

There is even a small tomato seedling coming up in front of the yellow container.

vegetable garden

They have taken over this part of the vegetable garden.  I admit that they aren’t particularly beautiful with the dead, brown area in the middle (the result of sunburn before I got my shade cloth up this summer).

There are a few green tomatoes on the vines, but they won’t have time to ripen before the first freeze.  So, I plan to keep an eye on the weather report and pick my green tomatoes just before a freeze is scheduled.

The green tomatoes will ripen indoors in my kitchen.

bell peppers

My bell peppers are doing just fabulous.

Last summer, I treated them with epsom salts, which helps to promote fruit production.  (You can read more about my experiment with epsom salts and my pepper plants here).

bell peppers

The epsom salts did their job.  I have over 6 bell peppers ready to be picked.  I’ll pick them before the first freeze, dice them and freeze them until I need them for making my Mexican rice.

Both tomato and pepper plants are damaged or killed in freezing temperatures in my zone 9a garden.  I will protect my pepper plants from frost by covering them with old sheets.

I will not do the same for my tomato plants because they are very large and it would be hard to cover them all.  The other reason that I won’t bother to protect them is that many gardeners report that the size of tomatoes decreases as the plant gets older.

I will start again with new plants in late winter.

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I hope you are enjoying this holiday season.  You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting as often.  Partly this is due to the fact that I get busier in December preparing for Christmas.

The other reason is that I am having tendon trouble in my thumb.  I wear a splint, which helps somewhat – but it is very hard and laborious to type one-handed.

I do have some new posts coming up though, so stay tuned 🙂

Graham Thomas, Abraham Darby, and Falstaff David Austin shrub roses

Photo: Graham Thomas, Abraham Darby, and Falstaff David Austin shrub roses.

Do you love roses?  

I do….

In fact, at one time – I had 40 rose bushes growing in my garden in our first house.  I lovingly tended them and was rewarded with gorgeous blooms.  

Years later, I don’t have quite as many roses in my current garden, but I love growing them just as much as I did years ago.

best rose bushes

Photo: Abraham Darby

Because we grow roses for their beautiful blooms, I learned some tips from rose-growing experts on how to maximize blooms and the health of my rose bushes.  

So, I’m going to share them with you.  

*Basic rose care consists of fertilizing your roses in spring, using a fertilizer specially formulated for roses. You can do this and have a lovely rose bush. However, if you want the biggest and most floriferous rose bushes in your neighborhood, you’ll want to follow these tips.   

1. In spring, grab your broom (yes, I said a broom) and make six holes around each rose bush (about 1 ft. from the base).  Each hole should be 6 – 8 inches deep.    

2. For this next step, you will need 6 cups of compost, 3 cups of composted steer (or chicken or horse) manure, 1/2 cup of Epsom salts, the recommended amount of your favorite rose fertilizer and two handfuls of alfalfa pellets per rose bush.  

So how do these ingredients help your roses?  

– The compost improves your soil by adding fertility, increasing its ability to hold the right amount of water and feeds microorganisms in the soil.  

– Using manure adds a natural source of nitrogen that is slowly released into the soil.  Make sure the manure is composted (aged) before using, or it can ‘burn’ your roses.  

– Head to your nearest feed store and pick up some alfalfa pellets.  When alfalfa breaks down in the soil, it releases an alcohol (triacontanol) that roses love.  They respond to it by growing more branches (basal breaks) from the bud union AND increases the number of roses and their size.  

best rose bushes

Photo:Falstaff

3. Mix all the ingredients together and then pour the mixture into each of the holes.  Work any extra mixture into the top inch of soil around your roses.  By adding the mixture into the holes, you are putting them right where the roots are.  

4.  Water deeply to 18 inches.  

That’s it!  Follow these tips, and your roses will soon be the envy of all your neighbors.  

But, I’m not finished yet….  

If you want to do even more….then follow this next step:  

5. Add liquid fertilizer to your roses monthly during the growing season.  

**In hot, dry desert climates – your roses will slow down their growth during the heat of summer because it is hard for them to focus on growth when it is hot.  Apply liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength once a month beginning in May and lasting through August. In September begin your regular fertilizer schedule for beautiful, fall roses.

Winter and Bare Root Roses