Getting ready for the winter on Drew Drive
By Stephan Drew
Well, I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Here on Drew Drive, we certainly did. It was nice to see family again, share a good meal, a few laughs and much fellowship. I was off for four days and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with everyone and relaxing with nowhere to go. Now that it’s over, it’s time to get back to normal life. With winter coming on, that means preparing for the cold months. The woodbox has been filled, the air conditioning units are covered and the plants have been taken inside. This is the time of year when Mom and I usually start our “seedlings.” There are certain plants we really love and, during this time of year, we make cuttings and sprout new baby versions of our favorites. Mine, of course, is roses. I have a Queen Elizabeth rosebush that is about 40 years old. It produces the largest and most beautiful blossoms, and I am working on having at least 30 of them in the garden. I’ve successfully sprouted seven or eight but, this year, I have 15 new ones growing. Right now, they’re in the “outdoor kitchen.” Once a gazebo, my father converted it into an extra kitchen when he replaced Mom’s indoor appliances several years ago. It’s a nice place where we can have fish fries, barbeques and other outdoor meals without messing up the kitchen in the house. Dad is always anticipating the future like that. Lately, he has been building a small greenhouse/potting shed for Mom and me. He knows we want to get a head start on next year’s spring flowers so, even though he has plenty of other things to do, he has been taking the time to build something really beautiful for us. It is solidly built, too. The frame is 4×4 posts sunk securely into the ground and the sides and top are constructed from 1x6s, with all the woodwork painted white. The thick, clear polyurethane side panels are going up now and it’s really going to be wonderful when it’s finished! Mom has already started buying potting soil — no, we never wait until the last minute for anything — and vitamins to give them a healthy start. Mom is the expert on all other flowers. My specialty is roses but it has taken me about three or four years to feel competent in what I’m doing. I used to think you had to cut them at a certain time of the day, under particular weather conditions and then prepare them a specific way. But it’s really not that difficult. As long as you select a “cane” (stalk) of the rosebush that is at least one year old (so, if you want to make cuttings next year, don’t cut it back this year). Usually, these stalks are about the thickness of your thumb. Smaller ones may work but you will definitely get quicker and better results if you use the larger canes. Cut a long cane from the bush. Then, cut it into about 6-inch lengths but don’t do this haphazardly. There’s a small seam and a tiny knot at each segment going up the cane. This knot is called a “node.” You want to cut the stalk (at a 45-degree angle) about ½ to 1 inch below the node. Then scrape the green skin/bark off the stalk from the node down to the angle cut. Don’t shave off the skin above the node. This shaved portion of the cane is what you’ll stick into the soil and this is where your roots will develop. I don’t use root hormone. I used to but I got about the same results without it. Plus, if you use too much of it, it will coat the stalk and prevent moisture from reaching the stalk early on. This will inhibit growth instead of promoting it. So, I just let it develop naturally. Also, if you don’t use the hormone, you will be able to better determine the strength of your plant. Hardy, vigorous plants will most likely survive. Weak ones will not. And, who wants weak, fragile plants in their garden, right?
When choosing a planting medium, we have found one which works best for our soil. We use ½ potting soil (from any store’s garden department), ½ black topsoil (in abundance here on the creek) and 1 cup of my father’s “special blend” fertilizer. My father and brother have a few cows and, since they eat almost everything in sight, they produce an aromatic and nutrient-rich natural fertilizer. This we have in abundance in the pasture. Dad scoops some up, puts it in a 5-gallon bucket and then fills the bucket with water. Stir well to break up all the clumps and let it sit (a good distance from the house!). When ready to use, just stir well again, skim off a cup and add it to your mixture. When you first plant your cuttings, fill the pot with your mixed soil but don’t pack it too tight. These new baby roots that you’re hoping to form will need some loose soil to move and grow in. After you have placed your cutting in the soil and packed it lightly, add 1 cup of skimmed “manure water,” then water profusely to wash it down into the pot. It shouldn’t be necessary to tell you to use gloves. I would hope EVERYONE uses gloves when they’re working with soil, fertilizer and plants. By the way, if I have to tell you here to keep your hands away from your face until they’re fully washed, then you really don’t need to be gardening or using tools of any sort. I can’t predict what success you’ll have when you attempt to grow flowers from cuttings. Like I said, it took me almost four years to get comfortable with it. I planted 15 stalks a little over a month ago. All but two have new growth on them. Over half already have clusters of tiny leaves. I try to sit them out in the sun all day and bring them in at night. Dad assures me that moving them around soon won’t be a necessity. He’s never been wrong before. Let’s pray he’s right this time too! Because I have my eye on three or four other rosebushes I want to start cuttings from and that greenhouse is looking better and better all the time! Thanks, Dad, for always thinking of ways to try and make our lives a little better.