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Wet weekend woes

Friday - 10/7/2011, 9:44am  ET

'Too wet to work'

Mark McGrath, Garden Plot editor


Wet weekend woes

Well, here we go again. Another weekend with a slew of gardening chores that should be done, but with way too much wetness in the ground and in the forecast to do almost any of them.

Let's start with lawn care. I was lucky enough to get my grass cut during that short dry spell earlier this week. But, if you were not so lucky, I urge you to wait for the next -- at least somewhat -- dry stretch. It's easy to pick out the lawns whose owners didn't wait and did what may prove to be irrevocable damage to both their turf and soil.

Cutting wet turf shreds the grass blades instead of shearing them off cleanly. The clippings cling together in big green balls and large patches of grass and soil get pulled up. Plus, just working on the lawn when it's sopping wet compacts your soil down hard, making it difficult to impossible for your grass roots to breathe, feed or absorb moisture the next time they need it. Better to let the grass get a little too high than to ruin it by trying to cut soaking wet sod.

You can give your lawn its fall feeding if you haven't done so yet, just try not to walk on the lawn if your soil is still really saturated -- you'll do more harm than good. But absolutely no aerating, dethatching or other heavy duty work right now.

Sit on your garlic cloves, as well. Don't get them off to a terrible start by planting them -- or anything else -- in soggy soil.

Same for new trees and shrubs. Hold them for another week. They won't be long-lived if you plant them in mud -- and it isn't time to plant spring bulbs yet anyway.

Watch football. Watch the first round of the baseball playoffs (Go Phillies!) Go out to the movies. Listen to 'TOP.

And maybe light a candle and pray for dry next weekend.

Plants in containers need to go in the ground

Karin in Rockville writes: "I have a wonderful small rosebush in a large pot on my townhouse deck. Can you provide the basics of proper rose care, and when and how to prune this kind of rosebush? I hope it will survive the winter. I grew up in a corner house in New York with roses growing along the sidewalk and remember the wonderful scent."

Yes Karin, but those roses were in the ground, not in a pot. Plants such as roses can't survive winter outdoor in containers. And it can be tricky to get them to go dormant indoors. Your best bet is to take it out of its pot and find a place where you can plant your little rose in good soil. If you don't have any ground, ask a friend to 'rose sit' the plant for you.

Just plant it in the ground -- dry ground, wait for a not-too-wet stretch -- at the same depth as it is in the pot. Then leave it alone. Don't feed, prune or otherwise abuse it.

Then, after it resumes growth in the spring, prune it back a little, replant it in the pot and feed it a healthy handful of compost. A two inch mulch of high-quality compost is all the food your rose requires, and it will keep the plant healthy as well.

Big rose show Saturday and Sunday, orchids next weekend

Rose and orchid lovers alert: Big plant shows this weekend and next.

This weekend is the 73rd Annual Potomac Rose Society Rose Show at the Merrifield Garden Center, 12101 Lee Highway, Fairfax, Va, 22030. Free and open to the public Saturday from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm, and Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m. Note: Consulting rosarians will be on duty to answer your questions, and McGrath hopes that they won't be pitching dangerous chemicals. If they do, email McG at and tell on them.

For more information on the show, call (301) 869-4948 or click here.

Next weekend, the National Capital Orchid Society will hold their 64th Annual Orchid Show and Sale at the National Arboretum, at 24th and R Streets NE, off Bladensburg Road in the District. Admission to view what promises to be a plethora of nature's sexiest citizens is free, and lot's of lovelies -- including some super-rare types -- will be for sale.

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