Garden Questions and Answers


What is Black Spot and how can I prevent getting it on my roses?


Black spot is one of the most common diseases of roses throughout the world. It appears on the leaves and stems and causes leaves to fall prematurely. Susceptible cultivars can be severely defoliated if left untreated. Black spot will also cause a general weakening of the plant so that progressively fewer and fewer blooms are formed if the disease is left unchecked. Plants so weakened are increasingly subject to winter injury.

Black Spot is a fungal disease spread by water-splash or wind-blown rain. The disease is most prevalent in clean air areas and occurs less frequently where atmospheric pollution is a problem. Watering the rose foliage creates the right environment for the proliferation of the disease, so never water the foliage. Always water around the roots of the rose and give it a good soaking.

Plants are no different than people – the better fed they are, the more likely they are to resist disease, so give your roses a good feed every six to eight weeks through the growing season with an organically based rose fertilizer. Remember, never put infected cuttings in the compost heap.


I have a large backyard, and would like to make part of it into a vegetable garden. How do I go about doing this? Should I wait until next spring, or can I get started now?


By all means get things started. You can then work on building up your soil, so that you can get an early start next year planting things like potatoes, peas, and beets. Just remember to refrain from working the soil when it is wet.

To begin with you will need to lift off the turf. This is an arduous job. Take heart in the fact that you’ll only ever have to do it once. Pile the sod in an out-of-the-way corner of your yard. Cover the pile with grass clippings or leaves. It will compost and become a great mound of soil that you can add to your garden next year.

After you have removed the sod, you need to dig the soil. The best method for this is a process called double digging. With this method, you take off the rich top layer of soil and put it aside. Using your shovel you then turn over what is most often the gravelly second layer. You then put the richer soil back on top of the gravel layer.

The problem with this method is that it requires a stronger back and more patience than many of us possess. A faster, less backbreaking solution is to rent or buy a tiller. An easy to start, small, but powerful, tiller is preferred. Echo’s TC-210i is a great little tiller, if you’re buying. The reversible, hardened-steel tines have a lifetime warranty.

Once you’ve tilled your soil, spend some time taking out rocks. This will prevent your root vegetables from taking on odd shapes.

You can then add things to the soil to build up the nutrient level: compost, manure, and seaweed. You’ll want to protect your soil by adding mulch afterwards too, such as straw or leaves. Alternatively, you can grow a cover crop like Oats, Fall Rye, or Crimson Clover. They will protect your soil over the winter, and when you turn them early next spring, will add nitrogen to your soil.


How do you grow garlic?


Plant Garlic in October, in rich soil with good drainage. Garlic likes a well-worked bed, so dig well. Add compost, a lot if your soil is heavy, and be sure not to compact the soil by stepping on it. Separate the cloves, and set each one pointed end up 10 to 15 cm apart, with the tip of the clove 2 to 5 cm deep. Don’t skin the clove. Adding mulch will protect the bed through the winter months and help maintain moisture in the summer.

Fertilize when spring growth starts. Water as needed and keep weeded. Clip off the curls that form on the tops and sauté them for a unique summer treat. When the tops begin to dry, pull and air-dry like onions. Do not leave decaying alliums in the ground as this may cause White Rot, which causes black spots and decay on bulbs. Using a strict four-year rotation will also prevent this.