Friday, January 22, 2016

Crown your Roses to beat Black Spot

Betty Boop, October 2014, after being crowned in the spring.  Note the black spot starting at the base.  This rose is nearly thornless on young parts, and blooms all summer into late fall.

Roses are starting to break bud and grow leaves, so it is time to crown them, to stop black spot fungus from taking them over and making them pretty flowers on an ugly bush.  The spots are on the stems, and they infect the leaves after they mature.  Removing all the stems, down to the crown, the hard knot of wood from which both roots and stems grow, takes all the fungus off the plant and stops black spot from showing up until late fall.

2016 Betty Boop rose, ready to crown.  Note the purple new growth.  It never quite stopped growing this winter.  

You do not want to crown them in late fall or in winter before bud break, or they won’t grow until months later, as they then feel only the temperature of the soil, and wait until the soil warms up, much later than the air does.  Once the buds swell, the plant is already growing and cannot stop; it will grow new stems and roses very quickly, though they will bloom no sooner than if you did not cut them.

Betty Boop rose buds breaking red, ready to crown.  Notice the black spots starting.

Some roses bud green.  The black spot fungus grows and spreads all winter.

Nearly all tea roses get black spot in this area, as our winters are not cold enough to kill the leave or even stop blooming.   The way we were taught to prune roses in spring in Landscape Management class was to wait until the photinia bloomed, to prevent freezing of tender new growth, and cut them down only to a foot tall, cleaning out spindly growth on what is left.  But I found that black spot took over the plant before it even bloomed, as soon as the new leaves were mature.  And roses start breaking bud before the photinia blooms, earlier in recent years, so leaf growth before that point was wasted, and blooming was delayed.

Betty Boop, cut the classic way roses are normally pruned in spring.  

Our teacher taught us that the way to bring any old, ugly shrub back to youth and beauty is to cut it to the ground.  When I applied this to roses, I found that it works for them, too; it grows back beautiful, with no black spot and great blooms. 

Betty Boop, crowned for the third year.  It was about 10 years old before the first crowning, a large, upright shrub rose; trunks 2-3 inches across, the whole crown about 8".

But cutting to the ground is not far enough if the crown is buried.  If you stop at ground level and don’t cut back to the crown, the underground stubs will grow smaller stems, sometimes several small stems that only crowd the bottom of the plant.  You have to dig down to and around the crown and cut flush with it, filling back in afterwards.  Stems that grow directly from the crown grow back thicker and longer than from stubs, often to their maximum height for that kind of rose.
If that maximum height is too tall for your taste, you can crown it again after the first flush of flowers and it will grow back half as tall and bloom again.  One can crown a rose anytime during the summer and may want to if it grows mold on new growth.  But crowning in fall can cause new growth to freeze while it’s still tender, and might kill it.

January 2016 issue, published online at  
Gardening is easy if you do it naturally.  Litter is tagging, marking the territory of the disorderly.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Weeding never ends in Grants Pass

 Blooming groundsel, center, and bitter cress surrounding

I saw a groundsel plant in full bloom right after New Year’s Day, down at the Greenwood Dog Park.  I thought it was earlier than I’d ever seen it, but checking last year’s article, it is, if anything, a little later than last year.

Young bitter cress, 2" wide

Likewise, bitter cress has been starting to grow and bloom in December, but not as fast as last year, likely due to all the cold rain we’ve been having, slowing its growth.  But I’ve been weeding the bitter cress and groundsel this year before it starts to bloom, so as not to have to do so much just before they start spreading seed.  I’ve been seeing dandelions blooming like last year, and wild lettuce is growing large faster than last year.
Over the last few years, weeding season has not ended; it has only been slowed down in late fall and early winter enough to concentrate on other things, like leaf cleaning and spreading.  Spreading of extra leaves over flower beds, shrub borders, and vegetable patches smothers young weeds so they don’t have to be weeded out, while seeds that later land on top cannot easily grow in leaves that dry out on top when the rain stops.

Seeded bitter cress

The main problem with groundsel and bitter cress is that they are ugly after they seed out, by which time it is too late to prevent the next crop.  Bitter cress is a small mustard that grows from 2 inches to 18 inches tall with little white flowers.  These form green pods that are nearly invisible until they pop dozens to hundreds of seeds about 18 inches in all directions and turn cream colored and ugly.  They come up in thick stands the following season, masking the loveliness of your garden.  Before it flowers, it is a good hot, bitter green for salads, but then it must be pulled or it will take over.

Seeding groundsel

Groundsel is a small relative of wild lettuce, with crenellated leaves and small, nodding yellow flowers that never completely open.  As the seed heads ripen, they grow erect and open to send their small fluffy seeds flying on the breeze to plague your neighbors like other wild lettuces. 
Both of these weeds can be readily pulled when young and the soil is wet, or they can be cut beneath the crown when flowering and will not grow back.  Like most annuals, they put all their root energy into growing a stalk and flowers.  

Wild lettuce putting up seed stalks, surrounded by seeded bitter cress, with cheat grass seeding behind it

Wild lettuce is harder to pull, but cutting under the crown will kill it.  It is bitter once it starts to put up a flower stalk.
Dandelions, on the other hand, are perennials that grow from thick, deep tap roots that do not die, and have to be dug out.  It is very bitter once flower buds have even started to form in the base.  Slide a shovel or a weeding knife beside the root and pop it out by leaning the tool away from the plant.  Repeat as necessary, any time you seem them.

January 2016 issue, published online at  
Gardening is easy if you do it naturally.  Litter is tagging, marking the territory of the disorderly.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040

Sunday, January 10, 2016

We are all living “outdoors” in Grants Pass

We are all living “outdoors” in Grants Pass, according to the definition of “indoors” in the Homegrown and Medical Marijuana nuisance code Chapter 5.72.  It disallows windows, without even saying the word:

“Indoors/Indoor Structure” means within a fully enclosed and secure structure that complies with the Oregon Residential Specialty Code (ORSC) or Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC) as adopted by the City of Grants Pass, which has a complete roof enclosure supported by connecting walls extending from the foundation/slab to the roof.  The structure must be secure against unauthorized entry, accessible only through one or more lockable doors, and constructed of solid materials that cannot easily be broken through, such as 2X4 or larger wood studs covered with 3/8” or thicker weather-resistant siding or equivalent materials.  Plastic sheeting, regardless of gauge, or similar products, do not satisfy this requirement.”

This definition makes the “meat” of the ordinance deceptive, as people rarely read definitions, which are usually fairly obvious and at least fairly close to common usage.  I know of no residences that have no windows.  And yet, when the Daily Courier told us about this ordinance, it said only that greenhouses are not allowed.  And one of our City Councilors said that we can grow a plant in the corner of our dining room.

But even if we build the special grow house contemplated in this definition, which requires permits, fees, and electricians like our mayor to safely set up all the lights, fans, and filters needed to grow indoors and keep all odor inside, we run afoul of the forbidden signs of cultivation:

5.72.030  Homegrown and Medical Marijuana Subject to Regulation:
A.   Marijuana cultivators shall be allowed to cultivate, produce, or process homegrown marijuana and medical marijuana subject to the following conditions:
1.   Cultivation, production, processing or storage of marijuana must be in full compliance with all applicable provisions of OMMA and Measure 91.
2.   All cultivation, curing, drying, storage, production, or processing of marijuana shall be conducted indoors….
3.  Cultivation, production, processing or storage of marijuana shall not be perceptible from the exterior of the household, housing unit, and/or indoor structure including but not limited to:
a. Common visual observation, which would prohibit any form of signage;”

One needs only to read or hear about the definition above to realize by “common visual observation” that a new, solidly built, windowless building in a residential yard is likely a grow house, and is thus a sign of cultivation for thieves, who often pay more attention to the law than people who would obey it.  Far from keeping your pot safe from thieves, it opens you to home-invasion robbery year-round to get the keys to the grow house where all the pot must be grown, processed and stored, rather than simply sneaking into your back yard to steal some buds just before harvest. 
It’s like building a giant, wooden safe in your yard and daring thieves to break in.  Faced with such a rich prize, some might choose the easy, quiet way of making you hand over the key.  If you report pot theft, the police will cite you for letting your cultivation show.

But this provision is just the beginning of the mischief in this ordinance.  It continues:

“b. Odors, smells, fragrances, or other olfactory stimulus;
c. Light pollution, glare or brightness that disturbs the repose of another;
d. Undue vehicular or foot traffic, including excess parking within a residential zone; and
e. Excessive noise that disturbs the repose of another in violation of GPMC 5.12.110.”

Police would come into your yard to verify odor or lack thereof coming from your house, requiring a search warrant anytime a neighbor complains about security lights, which can be disturbing to a neighbor’s repose; “undue” traffic and “excess” parking; or excessive noise, like loud music or laughter, or a barking dog. 

It appears that justifying search warrants is the main purpose of this ordinance.  Any of these ordinary annoyances can be used to check to see if you are growing in your house, after checking your backyard to see if pot is being grown in the light of the sun.  Even so, they have to check to see if it is being processed or stored in a place secure enough to be considered “indoors.”  While doing so, they must check to see if you are obeying the possession limits in the homegrown exception to Measure 91’s licensing rules or medical marijuana rules.  They’ll tear your house apart to find your pot and pot products and weigh them.

Fortunately, our legislature protected homegrowers from this ridiculous ordinance before we ever passed Measure 91, by reserving the regulation of seed crops and their products to the state, when they passed Senate Bill 863 in 2013, which forbids local government or their voters from enacting or enforcing local laws that inhibit or prevent the production of seed crops.  SB 863 was codified as ORS 633.733, its legislative intent, and ORS 633.738, the “meat” of the Seed Bill. 

Answering my lawsuit against the city’s ordinance, the city’s lawyers have said that the Seed Bill is only about GMOs, since it was inspired by Jackson County’s GMO ban, which was circulating for the ballot at the time.  They ignore its legislative intent, spelled out in ORS 633.733.  That’s because they are unable to show any permission in state law to regulate unlicensed homegrown marijuana.

Section 89 of House Bill 3400 (2015) amended the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act to allow local governments to “reasonably” regulate medical marijuana in particular ways.  But the above provisions are not reasonable, starting with their definition of “indoors,” and this code has no relation to the permissions given in HB 3400.

January 8, 2016 protest leaflet.  Published on  Sign the petition at
Read the ordinance at
Support the lawsuit at 

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040