Get Ready

To garden in Rim Country



Andy Towle/Roundup -

Gary Karlowski, an award-winning master of the rose, shared his special recipe for alfalfa tea and the feeding and maintenance schedule he uses to produce spectacular flowers on more than 100 rose plants. Karlowski spoke at a free rose care seminar hosted by Plant Fair Nursery on Feb. 14.


Metro Service photo

Now is the time to make a plan for your garden and then start building the soil before planting.


Metro Services photo

Granite is a good starting point for building productive garden soil. Visit with area nursery people about how to amend it for the best results.

It may seem that winter has just settled in for a nice, long visit in the Rim Country this past week or so, but in truth, it is time to get ready to garden.

In fact, Plant Fair Nursery hosted a free rose care seminar with one of the area’s experts, Gary Karlowski. The nursery is already selling Jackson & Perkins ever blooming rose bushes, cold hardy pansies, seed packages and a variety of amendments for soils.

Many roses come in plantable pots, which limit the stress on the roots — no more excising them from their comfy little homes and putting them in a strange new environment you have created for them in your yard.

All you have to do is dig a hole 12 to 18 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the rose pot. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole. Keep the soil you have dug out and mix it with a planting mix, at Plant Fair Nurseryman’s Organic Rose Planting Mix is recommended — use one part planting mix to two parts soil. Refill the hole two-thirds full with the mix and then set in the rose pot.

Use the rest of the soil mix to fill in around the pot up to the crown — the part of the plant where the stems start, and then water well.

When planting bare root roses create a mound of the soil mixture in the hole to a similar depth (fill the hole about two-thirds full) and then spread the bare roots evening over the mound and then cover with remaining soil up to the crown and water.

Karlowski — who has won numerous awards for his roses at the Northern Gila County Fair — prunes his 100+ rose bushes in the spring, from about mid-March to mid-April. He recommends pruning away all growth that is not a pencil width in diameter and taking the stems down by about a third of their height (hybrids, grandifloras should be about two-feet high, shrub roses should be between three and four-feet high).

The ideal shape to prune to is that of a vase formation with only four canes, this allows for good air circulation. The four-cane rule generated more than a few gasps of shock and dismay from the two dozen Rim residents at the seminar.

“You can’t be afraid to prune. The more you prune the more invigorated you make your rose and the more blooms you get,” Karlowski said.

He said the pruning cuts should be at 45-degree angles from the outside inward.

Once the recently pruned roses begin to leaf out it is time to start feeding them, according to Rosarian Jolene Adams, whose material was shared at the seminar.

The first food is for the soil more than for the roses.

“The prompt application of fertilizer and organics in the spring will help them start growing strongly and setting out shoots and roots for another growing season. Remember to water well before you feed anything to roses — you want them to be full of water, never thirsty,” Adams writes in the document “The Spring Feeding Frenzy”.

Organics help start soil activity. The soil should be nice and loose and friable, with plenty of humus mixed in before adding a combination of cottonseed meal, fishmeal, blood meal or additional humus like composted manure. Work these into the soil and they start the activity needed to feed roses.

Adams suggests the following to build beds for planting roses: “Work your soil so it is loose, add as much organic material as you can get your hands on. I mix a half-wheelbarrow of the garden soil with a quarter bag of potting soil and a quarter bag of aged poultry manure, liberally laced with alfalfa pellets, redwood compost and shredded leaves or spoiled hay. Mix it all together and dump it back into the ground and water it all. After the bed has been allowed to sit for awhile and mellow, I then plant my roses.”

Karlowski swears by his alfalfa tea to get his roses going strong after their winter dormancy. He puts a gallon of the brew on each rose plant. The following is a recipe to feed 30 roses:

• Get a plastic 33-gallon garbage can (with lid) — Metal will not work

• Get a 50- or 80-pound sack of plain alfalfa pellets (from the feed store)

• A burlap sack, old nylons or old pillowcase

• A No. 10 metal coffee can

Fill three cans full of the pellets and put them in the sack (pillowcase, etc.).

Put sack in garbage can and fill it with water, stopping 3 inches from the top, which will give you 30 gallons of liquid.

Put lid on the can and let it sit for 48 to 72 hours.

Pull sack out of can (with an open metal shelf set over the can opening, you can drain the sack of alfalfa — don’t throw alfalfa away – work it into the soil around roses and other plants. Earthworms love the stuff)

With the fresh alfalfa tea, water roses with a gallon per bush.

Karlowski uses the tea once a week, adding to it following the first watering.

The second week, using a fresh batch of the tea, add 3 cups fish emulsion, stir well and feed each rose bush a gallon of the mixture.

The third week, make a fresh batch of tea and add 2 cups Miracle Grow Rose Food, stir well and give each rose bush a gallon of the liquid.

The fourth week, with a fresh batch of tea, add 3 cups fish emulsion, 2 cups seaweed extract, ? cup Epsom salt and 2 cups chelated iron. Mix well and feed each rose a gallon of the amended tea.

This formula of tea and feeding schedule can be used on all flower beds and containers.

Eileen Lawson, another award-winning Rim Country gardener said the tea and the “used” alfalfa are good for everything.

Karlowski uses the tea and feeding schedule on his roses from May through October, which is the rose season in the Rim Country.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Service Web site is a good source for information about gardening — the site is

The following material was found at this site:

Nowhere is home gardening more challenging or potentially more rewarding than in the Southwest.

Because our climate ranges from subalpine to tropical desert, an almost bewildering array of ornamental plants can be grown in this region. However, very few plants grow satisfactorily over the entire range of varied growing conditions found in the Southwest. It is important, therefore, that we know how local climate influences plant growth and which ornamental plants grow well in our area.

Many climatic factors play a role in determining the kinds of plants that will grow in a given location. Minimum winter temperature and frost occurrence, maximum summer temperatures, rainfall amount and distribution, humidity, day length and light intensity are all important. Of these, minimum winter temperature is a major limitation and is often used as an indicator of where plants are adapted.

The plant climate zone map presented here is based on expected minimum temperatures throughout the southwest. It shows five different zones, each of which represents an area of winter hardiness for certain ornamental plants. These five plant climate zones give adequate information for most horticultural purposes.

However, important differences in plant performance may be found within a given zone. Most often these differences will be due to a change in elevation and a corresponding cooler or warmer climate.

In addition, the climates of adjoining zones grade into one another near their boundaries. This sometimes makes it possible to grow plants that are too cold tender for a given zone, or it may exclude certain plants at the coldest extremes of that zone.

Microclimates also play a part in determining the kinds of plants that will grow in your landscape. A microclimate is simply the local climate on a small site. Microclimates are formed by hills and valleys, structures, paved areas, hedges or windbreaks. These features may change airflow patterns, alter day length or light intensities, trap heat during the day and slowly release it during the night, or in other ways modify local climate.

In the discussion of each climate zone, a number of adapted plants are listed. These “indicator plants” may lead you to others that will succeed in the area. Cities and towns are listed to help pinpoint the zone for your site.

HIGH ALTITUDE DESERT (Elevation 3,500-5,000 feet)

With average minimum winter temperatures near freezing, such landscape plants as Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata), Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), Pomegranate (Punica granatum) and Silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) grow well. However, in most of this zone, winters are mild enough for success with Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), Euonymus (Euonymus species), Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and Glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum). The growing season in this zone is about 200 to 220 days long.

In the southern part of the area (lower elevation), spring frosts are over by the end of March. Other areas are generally safe after April 10. Annual rainfall generally ranges from 10 to 20 inches. Point of reference towns: Benson, Bisbee, Clifton, Douglas, Globe, Prescott, Payson, Sierra Vista, Sedona.

The following are the home gardening tips for February from the University of Arizona Extension Service for locations at the low and mid-level elevations.

• Prune trees and shrubs

Prune trees and shrubs as needed. Remove dead, broken or dying branches. Remove limbs that grow into walkways or structures. Prune out crossing, competing and inward pointing branches on trees. Prune off errant branches to shape shrubs. Selectively cut back or remove individual branches. Never prune excessively! Use hand pruners, loppers, or pruning saws depending on the size of limbs and branches to be removed. Use hedge shears only to trim formal hedges.

• Fertilize deciduous fruit

Fertilize deciduous fruit trees such as apple, pear, peach, and apricot. Apply one pound of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) or similar analysis fertilizer in mid-February and repeat every 2 weeks until a total of 4 applications have been made. Distribute the fertilizer evenly from near the trunk out to and slightly beyond the branch ends. After applying the fertilizer, slowly water it into the soil using a portable lawn sprinkler or hand-held watering wand.

• Prepare garden soils

Prepare garden soils for spring planting. Vegetable and flower beds are improved by the addition of organic matter. This month, prepare spring garden beds by mixing in lots of organic amendments such as; bagged compost, peat, aged manure, cottonseed meal or other available organics. Before adding the amendment, water the garden bed thoroughly to make tilling easier. Wait a day or so to allow excess water to drain. Then, thoroughly mix in a layer of from 4 to 6 inches of this organic matter into the top 12 inches of garden soil. At the same time, mix in a high phosphorous fertilizer, such as ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) to promote flowering and fruiting. Smooth the prepared bed with a garden rake. Just prior to planting, water the bed again.

At elevations between 4,500 and 6,000 feet there is one main growing period for vegetables, which should be planted during the spring and early summer.

VEGETABLE PLANTING DATES for 4500 - 6000 feet elevations

Asparagus, April 1-30

Bean, bush, May 15-July 1

Bean, pole, May 15-July 1

Bean, Lima, May 15-July 1

Bean, edible soy, May 25-July 1

Beet, May 1-July 15

Broccoli, April 1-July 1

Brussels Sprouts, June 1-July 1

Cabbage (seed), March 15

Cabbage (plant), May 1–June 1

Cantaloupe, May 15-June 15

Carrot, May 1-July 15

Cauliflower, same as cabbage

Celery, June 15 - July 15

Chard, March 1-April 10 and July 1-

Aug. 1

Chinese Cabbage, June 1-July 15

Collard, June 1-July 15

Corn, sweet, May 25-July 1

Corn, Mexican, May 25-June 15

Cucumber, May 15 - June 15

Eggplant, May 15-June 15

Endive, April 15-June 15

Garlic, April (cloves)

Horseradish, Feb. 15-March 15

Kale, Feb. 15-April 10

Kohlrabi, April 15-May 15

Leek, April

Lettuce, head, July 1-Aug. 1

Lettuce, leaf, March 1-April 15, Aug. 1-Sept. 15

Muskmelon, May 15-June 15

Mustard, April 1-July 1

Okra, May 15-June 15

Onion (green, bunch), April 15-May 1

Onion, dry (seeds), Feb. 15-April 15, Oct. 15 - Jan. 1

Onion, dry (sets), April 1– April15, Nov. 1-Feb. 1

Parsley, April 1-15

Parsnip, April 1-May 20

Pea, spring, Feb. 15-April 15

Pepper (seed), March 1-April 1

Pepper (plants), May 10-May 25

Potato, Irish, May 10 - June 1

Potato, sweet, May 15-May 20

Pumpkin, May 20-June 15

Radish, April 1-June 15

Rhubarb, March 1-April 1

Rutabaga, April 1-May 15

Salsify, April 1-May 15

Spinach, April 1-May 15

Squash, summer, May 1-July 1

Squash, winter, May 15-July 1

Tomato (seed), March 1-April 1

Tomato (plants), May 10-June 1

Turnip, April 1-May 15

Watermelon, May 1-June 1


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