Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
Extension Educator, Horticulture
November 30, 2011
It's a long time between now and next spring, but it will be here before you know it. And for those of you considering a planting of small fruits, you really need to begin getting ready now. Often times the most popular varieties of plants are sold out shortly after the first of the year. So now is the time to place the order. There really is nothing in comparison to the taste of a freshly picked fruit- strawberry, raspberry, blackberry or blueberry. The store bought just can't compare!
Growing small fruits is not a difficult task. You'll need to conduct a soil test to determine the fertility level of the soil. Pick a site that gives full sunlight for a majority of the day. If it has a slight slope to allow for water and air drainage that's good. Hopefully it's a deep soil as well. These plants won't tolerate wet soils with standing water, so if need be a raised bed can be used. The raised bed can be as simple as plowed together furrows or more complex, using cement blocks or boards.
Order the plants from a reputable nursery; don't dig up plants from neighbors or friends. Small fruit plants die from diseases anyway (they all have limited life spans, the exception being blueberries) and the easiest way to get disease is by digging up older plants. Likewise, destroy any volunteer plants in the area. Go out 500-600' or so. These volunteer plants harbor insects and diseases. When you get your plants from the nursery, store them in a cool dry location until planting can take place- the sooner you can plant the better. We'll discuss strawberries with this column and address other small fruits in later columns.
There are some standard strawberry varieties that have proven themselves over the years. You should begin with these varieties and then experiment with others. Earliglow is the standard early berry. It's an exceptional tasting berry. However the size of the berry is small and it quickly gets smaller after a couple of pickings. Honeoye is the standard that all berries are compared to. It will mature 5 days or so later than Earliglow. It fruits for 3 weeks or so, and although size will diminish with later pickings, not to the extent of Earliglow. Its high yields make this a favorite. Jewel will mature about 5 days later than Honeoye. Excellent taste and quality picking are the traits of this variety. It will yield close to Honeoye but much higher than Earliglow. Allstar is another great tasting berry. The coloring of Allstar is somewhat lighter than other varieties. It will mature slightly ahead of Jewel and the taste is as good as Jewel. These are probably the standard varieties in our area.
Other varieties (and their maturity) that deserve consideration include: Annapolis (early), Cavendish (early mid), Darselect (mid) and Cabot (late). How many plants should you order? Many nurseries will sell varieties as bunches of 25 each. Rows should be between 3-4' apart, depending upon equipment. At the end of the year and for the length of the stand you'll want to have a row of plants between 14-18" in width.
You'll set plants anywhere from 18-24" between plants within the row. Spacing will depend upon time of planting (the earlier you plant the further apart the plants can be) and how aggressive the variety is (Honeoye is very aggressive whereas Cabot is not).
There are also everbearing and day neutral strawberries you can consider. These plants don't runner as much, putting energy into fruit production, so they might be a better fit with limited space available (container planting). However fruits will be smaller in size compared to June bearing varieties. SeaScape is an everbearing variety that will produce fruit in two peaks- July and again in late summer. Tribute and Tristar are two day neutral varieties.
Consider disease resistance in selecting any fruit varieties. Root diseases will eventually thin the stand and you'll have to replant. So selecting varieties with some resistance may allow for a longer stand.
November 15, 2011
Many of the roses that are classified as old garden roses are extremely tolerant of cold temperatures, while others like hybrid teas, experience considerable damage. Also, budded roses stand a greater chance of injury or death due to severe cold than do own-root roses. When selecting roses, always select cultivars that are able to tolerate the coldest temperatures in your area based on USDA hardiness zone maps. One of the ways to protect roses for the winter is to be sure they go completely dormant. To accomplish this, stop fertilizing early enough so growth slows down. No fertilizer should be applied after August 15. To further encourage dormancy, stop dead-heading or cutting flowers after October 1 and allow the plant to form hips.
There are many methods to provide winter protection for roses. The whole idea of winter protection is to keep the plant uniformly cold and frozen all winter and prevent the damaging effects of alternate freezing and thawing. Whatever the method, don't begin covering plants too early. Wait until a hard killing frost has caused most of the leaves to fall, and the temperature has dropped into the teens for several nights. Prior to covering, remove any foliage or other debris that might harbor disease for the next season.
Before covering, some tall roses may need minor pruning to reduce their height, and tie canes together to prevent wind whipping. Pruning at this point should be kept to a minimum. Most pruning will be done in the spring to remove dead and diseased canes.
The most common way to provide winter protection is to pile or "hill-up" a loose, soil and compost mix around and over the plant about 10-12 inches deep. A variety of hilling materials can be used, but the key is to be sure that the material is well drained. Wet and cold is far more damaging than dry and cold. Soil that is used to "hill-up" plants should be brought in from outside the rose garden. After the soil mound has frozen, the mound can be covered with evergreen boughs, hardwood leaves, or straw to help insulate and keep the soil frozen.
A variation of the "hilling" method is one utilizing collars. An 18-inch-high circle of hardware cloth or chicken wire is placed around the plant. The collar is filled with soil, allowed to freeze, then mulched with straw. The benefit of the collar is that it holds the soil in place all winter and prevents it from being washed or eroded away.
Another popular method of winter protection for roses is the use of styrofoam rose cones. If these are used, they need to be used properly. First, don't cover the plants too early. Follow the general timing guidelines. Second, cones need to be well ventilated by cutting holes around the top and bottom of the cones. This helps prevent heat build-up on the inside during sunny winter days. It is also advisable to mound soil around the crown of the plant before putting the cone in place. For extremely tender varieties, some rose growers cut the top off the cone and stuff it full of straw for added protection. It is also a good idea to weight the cone down with a brick or stone to keep it from blowing away.
Climbing roses offer more challenges. For marginal varieties, climbers may need to be removed from their supports and bent to the ground, then covered with six inches of soil and mulched. When laying climbers on the ground for covering, one needs to be very careful not to injure or crack the stems. As the weather gets colder their long stems are more rigid, and they are easily broken.
Another method that can be used is to physically pack straw around the canes while they are still attached to the trellis or support. The straw is held in place with twine to keep it in place over the winter.
Generally knockout roses don't require special care in hardiness zone 5 or south. We are in zone 5b. If you do want to do something because of prior problems, you can mulch the crown area. Some go to the extreme and burlap them or put wire around them and fill with leaves, but that is entirely up to you. The basic care is a pruning, if needed, in the early spring to size or shape.