Harmony Horticultural Consulting assists the landscape and property management professional or property owner, helping to manage water, plant health care and pest issues to maintain attractive and productive properties. I help to fine-tune both commercial and residential properties incorporating horticulturally-sound techniques with practical applications. Service include one-time visits to help solve tree and landscape problems or routine site visits to help manage irrigation controller programming and create to-do lists for your maintenance provider. Customized training programs for the green industry and private classes for the gardening enthusiast are also available.
Anywhere roses are expertly cared for, you will notice winter rosebushes have been pruned back to a few carefully chosen canes. While the prospect of pruning green branches and flower buds when they are actively growing and flowering may be daunting, this important ritual ensures large, profuse blossoms and healthy, pest resistant plants year after year. So clean and sharpen your best pruners- here are some important tips on the why, when and how to give your rosebushes a proper cutting back.
Why should I cut back my roses?
All living things need a rest and roses are no different. Cutbacks force roses into a short dormancy period, which helps each bush ‘spring’ forward with vigor during the blooming season as a healthier, more productive plant. Cutbacks also remove foliage where overwintering pests linger on the stems and leaves.
When should I cut back my roses?
In the Desert regions, each January- February, all established rosebushes should be cut and all foliage removed. If the plant has been in the ground less than two years, prune very lightly (dead or crossing branches) and never more than ⅓ of the plant volume. Blooms will reappear in about six weeks.
- Sharpen all pruning equipment and sanitize blades between bushes to prevent the spread of disease (use a 10% bleach solution or other disinfectant)
- Cut ¼ inch above the nearest outward-facing bud with the cut at a 45 degree angle (ensures growth of the new bud towards the outside, keeping the center of the rosebush open for air circulation)
- If disease has been an issue in past years, consider treating larger cuts with an anti-fungal product (this is generally not an issue in our arid climate but can be a problem if there is overcrowding and poor circulation in your garden)
- If stem borers have been present in previous years, consider sealing cuts with wood glue
How do I get started?
Determine how low you should prune, which is dependent on the variety.
Floribunda & Iceberg Roses
These are shrub-like roses with ‘sprays’ of multiple, smaller blooms over top of the bush. It is also common to see these as climbing roses.
January: Prune canes to 24-32”, strip all leaves and flower buds.
September: Remove 30% of the past season’s growth, promoting fall blooming. Do not strip leaves in the fall.
Tea or Modern Long Stemmed Hybrid Rose
These bushes produce long stems with a single large rose on each stem, which are ideal for cutting and showcasing in a vase.
January: Prune canes to 18-24”, strip all leaves and flower buds.
September: Remove 30% of the past season’s growth to promote fall blooming. Do not strip leaves in the fall.
Tombstone or Lady Banks Rose
This bush has small white or yellow flowers on long, thin, vine-like branches that should be supported by a trellis or over an arbor. This is a large plant so make sure you have lots of space to allow it to grow in its natural form.
May/ June: Prune after blooming*, only removing dead, crossing branches that impede traffic or that have outgrown the space. Again, this plant is best if allowed to grow in a natural, wild shape.
*Flowers form on previous season’s growth, pruning before blooming may decrease flower production.
- Remove dead, damaged or sucker canes (formed below the graft union)
- Remove canes that are crossing or growing in an inward direction- all canes should grow up and outward
- Remove branches that are smaller than the diameter of a pencil
- Carefully remove all leaves from remaining canes
- Water deeply after cutbacks
- Within a week of pruning, apply a complete fertilizer with 50% slow release nitrogen, plus magnesium and other necessary micronutrients
- Optional: apply worm castings or chicken manure for added organic matter and slow release fertilizer (worm castings also act as an insect repellent, helping to reduce aphid and whitefly populations)
- Topdress rose beds with organic mulch and water in well
While it can be difficult to remove all of the growth and blooms off of your roses when they may be in full bloom in the winter, it is important to force this dormancy period to allow roses to save energy for their ‘Main Event’, which generally occurs late spring in the Desert Southwest. Without this short dormancy, it is common for rosebushes to fizzle out before this time, reducing not only the number of blooms, but also the size of the flowers for the rest of the season. It also allows pests to linger on the leaves, giving them a head start on feeding on your prized roses in the spring. With mild winters, pest pressure in our gardens can be much higher, making it challenging to have healthy bushes. Stopping pests early in the season is a great way to reduce the likeliness of needing to resort to using pesticides in your garden to keep insects like aphids and thrips at bay. Now, get out those gloves, sharpen your gear and get to pruning!
5 Ways to Save Water in Your Landscape
July is Smart Irrigation month, and we should all take a close look at how we can more efficiently water our landscaped areas. It is said that in Arizona, 70% of household water goes to water landscapes. In this video, I share five easy ways you can reduce your water use, helping improve water efficiency in your landscape.
1. Cap unused emitters
One two-gallon drip emitter could waste hundreds of gallons per year if it is not watering a targeted plant. Using goof plugs to cap the ¼” spaghetti line is a cheap and easy way to reduce water wastage in your drip irrigation system. Capping 5 two-gallon emitters in your landscape could save you about 2000 gallons per year! Also, look for opportunities to cap or reduce nozzle size (for example from a 2gph to a 1gph drip nozzles) to some drought tolerant plants, which could also help reduce water usage in your landscape.
2. Make sprinkler head adjustments regularly
Adjust sprinkler nozzles regularly to ensure they are spraying only the targeted areas: your turfgrass. If the head is unable to adjust to the angles, ask your landscaper or irrigation supplier for a specialized nozzle which might work better for those tricky corners, narrow strips or curved areas. Some manufacturer’s nozzles have special tools making these adjustments easy. Also, measure the distance between heads and check to make sure you aren’t overspraying turfgrass areas. While some nozzles have adjustable throw distances, some are fixed. Make sure you achieve head-to-head coverage with minimal overspray. To remind yourself to adjust your nozzles, plan to make necessary adjustments each week after mowing.
3. Swap out spray heads for high efficiency nozzles
Typically, these high efficiency (HE) nozzles have larger water droplets, reducing water loss due to misting or atomization. They also have lower precipitation rates, or deliver water at a much slower rate than traditional spray nozzles. Make sure to review the manufacturer’s chart to determine how much water your nozzles put out to determine ideal runtimes. A few options include Hunter Industry’s MP Rotator, Rain Bird’s HE-Van or Rotary nozzle, or Toro’s Precision Spray nozzles all which can greatly increase the amount of water which reaches the turfgrass. These nozzles can also be an excellent choice for sloped areas since the slower application of water reduces runoff which is common on grade changes.
4. Upgrade to a smart controller
Smart controllers use data from local weather stations to determine how much water should be applied to your landscape, thus, taking the guesswork out of calculating runtimes. It is very important to set up the parameters in the smart controller correctly or it won’t water your plants efficiently. You must know your plants’ water demands, depth of roots, microclimate and soil texture as well as your system’s precipitation rate in order for the controller to calculate proper watering intervals and runtimes. I’ve always said that smart controllers are only as smart as the person setting them up. It can be very frustrating to invest in this modern technology only to have it not work right since the installer wasn’t familiar with the plants, microclimate, soil or basic hydraulics.
Installing a flow monitor or sensor is also another great tool to add to your smart controller. This device tracks water moving through your pipes and will send you warnings if water exceeds the calibrated volume. If you travel or are rarely home when your irrigation is running, this can help identify leaks that go unseen, potentially saving you hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water. I highly recommend for a trained license contractor install the flow sensor.
5. Frequent controller scheduling adjustments
If you are not ready to drive into the smart controller scene just yet, you still have an opportunity to save water by using your traditional irrigation controller. Making frequent or monthly scheduling adjustments based on weather changes could help ensure you are watering to your plants’ needs. As a very general rule, I recommend making schedule adjustments anytime weekly average temperatures increase or decrease by 10 degrees. I try not to adjust runtimes too much during the year (to help encourage deep root systems) but generally only adjust intervals, or the frequency of the irrigation cycles. For example, for high water using citrus trees on one of my properties, I may water 4-hour cycles for most of the year, but will water every 4-5 days in the June, but only every 14-21 days in January.
All properties are different, and so it is difficult to determine the ideal runtimes and intervals without inspecting the site and plant conditions as you do when setting up a smart controller. I help both homeowners and commercial properties establish irrigation schedules for traditional and smart controllers. Please contact me if you would like to schedule an appointment to program your controller for maximum water efficiency in your landscape. As desert dwellers, we should pay attention to the amount of water we use in order to preserve this precious resource so that future generations may also be able to live and grow plants in this hot, arid climate.
Growing Tall Fescue in a Hot Climate
Will tall fescue work in your yard
First step is determining if there is in fact enough shade to make it through the summer. Shade should be 60% or more coverage throughout the day. With less than a total of 3-4 hours of direct sunlight in any one area. Two hours of direct sun in the morning, and two hours in the afternoon is fine. If there is direct sun for longer periods of time, you will likely need to have bermudagrass (remember the texture differences seen in the last video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzn0KdQKM3Q&t=86s
Overseeded tall fescue the last week of Sept, and even in the middle of Sept. for higher elevations. Typically, tall fescue should be seeded two weeks before ryegrass in the southern region. Tall fescue has a slower germination than ryegrass; be patient with establishment. Allow 2+ months for seeds to tiller and begin filling in.
Sod is an option, but generally tall fescue sod is only available in the spring months. Contact your local sod farm to pre-order for the spring.
Tall fescue uses about 10-15% more water than bermudagrass in the summer months. Long deep irrigations are best for this deeply rooted turfgrass. In the summer month, irrigate 6 days per week, or put down just under 2” of water per week, compared to Bermudagrass which typically gets 1.5-1.8” per week in June. Reduce water based on your local ET (evapotranspiration) rate.
Reduce water when humidity comes in above 50%, or after monsoon season starts. Excess moisture in the thatch can encourage diseases like brown patch (Rhizoctonia solani) to develop.
Elevate mowing height from May- Sept. to 3- 3.5”. Skip mowing on hot weeks over 110 degrees. In the cooler months, mow at 2-2.5”. Remember to slowly reduce mow height- do not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at any one mow. This rule applies to all turfgrass species.
After seeding, apply 1lb of nitrogen per 1000 square feet around Oct 15, and another pound of nitrogen on Nov. 15. Apply 1 lb of nitrogen in Feb., another pound of nitrogen in Mar., and if conditions stay mild, one additional pound in early April. For established lawns, resume fertilizing in mid to late Sept. to encourage fall growth. For most tall fescue lawns, you will use 5-6 lbs of nitrogen or 5-6 applications of fertilizer per year for maintenance, which is about the same as bermudagrass and overseeded lawns. Stop all fertilization in early April since nitrogen can encourage diseases development.
To calculate how much fertilizer your yard requires, use online fertilizer rate calculators, like this one. I like to make sure to use fertilizer with potassium which can help the plant have a fighting chance against the brown patch infections in the summer.
Soil texture may impact how well tall fescue performs. Conditions such as soil drainage and air flow could impact the success of your tall fescue in the heat. If you have poorly drained soils or poor air flow on your property, you might find the disease pressure is too great in the summer months. There are fungicides available for this disease. You can make the call if you want to go down that road.
Tall fescue can consume 10-15% more water than a bermudagrass lawn in the summer months. However, its water demand is comparable to perennial ryegrass in the cooler season. Expect a higher water bills in the summer months.
Tall fescue is an excellent option for densely shaded yards in southern, hot climates. Tall fescue demands a bit of extra attention and adjustment of cultural practices in order to keep it happy during periods of extreme heat and humidity. It is a great option for year-round turfgrass in shaded yards in the dry and arid climates. Please contact me if you would like help transitioning your shaded lawn areas to tall fescue. I service the central Phoenix metro area. firstname.lastname@example.org
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