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Garden Checklist: How to coax a near-dead rose back to life

Sacramento Bee file

We’re near the end of bare-root season, which means those naked-looking plants need to get their roots into soil – either in the ground or pots. Before planting, soak the roots – and, if possible, the whole plant – in water for 24 hours (or more) to help rehydrate its system after months in cold storage.

Some bare-root shrubs – particularly roses – may need some extra TLC to get growing and break dormancy. Lifetime master rosarian Muriel Humenick of El Dorado offers this method to save a rose that looks like it’s almost dead. She calls it peat moss therapy. The bush is basically buried in moist peat moss, rehydrating the canes while drawing out new growth.

You’ll need enough peat moss to cover the whole rose bush and a sturdy brown paper grocery bag, cardboard box or 5-gallon peat pot (such as those used in nurseries). Whatever container you choose, it needs to be deep enough to cover most if not all of the rosebush.

Soak the peat moss in lukewarm water until it’s thoroughly wet. Water the bush, too, either planted in a 5-gallon pot or in the ground. Cut the bottom out of the bag, box or peat pot and slide it over the rose bush. (You may also make a slice down one side of this container and tape it back together once in place.) Pack the damp peat moss around the canes (or branches) of the bush until the container is full. The tops of the canes may barely peek out of the top of their peat moss mound, or the bush may be entirely submerged.

Then, wait. Leave the bush alone. Keep the peat moss moist by occasionally misting or gently spraying it with water. (This water will also irrigate the bush.) After four to six weeks, new green growth will start to poke through the peat moss. After that growth appears, gently remove the bag, box or pot. The peat moss will fall away from the bush; use it as mulch around the plant.

This method also can be used on underperforming roses planted in the ground.

Elsewhere in the garden this week:

▪ Feed fruit trees before flowers open with a fertilizer specifically labeled for fruit trees.

▪ Feed other mature trees and shrubs as spring growth appears. Always water plants before adding fertilizer.

▪ Feed strawberries and asparagus.

▪ Feed spring-blooming plants and established perennials.

▪ Check for aphids on new growth. Knock them off with a strong spray of water or a squirt of insecticidal soap.

▪ Look out for snails and slugs. Hand-pick them off plants an hour after nightfall.

▪ In the vegetable garden, plant seed for beets, carrots, celeriac, celery, collards, endive, fennel, jicama, kale, leaf lettuce, mustard, peas, potatoes, radish, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.

▪ In the greenhouse or indoors, start seed for summer and winter squash, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.

▪ For spring and summer flowers, plant seed for aster, cornflower, cosmos, larkspur, nasturtium, nicotiana, periwinkle, portulaca, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragon and verbena.

Debbie Arrington

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