Make our garden ... not die?
July 15, 2014 6:18 AM   Subscribe

When we rented our current flat, it came with a front garden that we are supposed to take at least minimal care of -- weeding and pruning, that kind of thing. The problem is, we haven't the faintest idea how to weed or prune or ... anything else. Help!

The garden has now run a bit riot -- here are some pictures -- and there are black spots on the leaves of the rose bushes that seem kind of worrying.

What are the weeds in these pictures? How do you weed them? How do you tell what are the weeds and what belongs there? What, if anything should we prune? And how much? Should the spots on the leaves worry us? How do you take care of roses? Is there anything else we should be doing?

(In terms of climate, we live in Edinburgh, Scotland -- wet, temperate, chilly.)
posted by kyrademon to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't see the pictures (and am logged into FB).

Roses are picky, prone to all sorts of wilts, mildew, etc. There are lots of sprays for roses to treat the various diseases.
posted by k5.user at 6:49 AM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: I've now set the pictures to public -- sorry about that.
posted by kyrademon at 7:50 AM on July 15, 2014

Yeah, can't see the pictures. Sounds like black spot on the roses. Roses need pruning even when they aren't infected with black spot, but for now you need to remove all of the affected leaves, including the ones that have fallen to the ground, and spray something (there are options listed in that article) to prevent new leaves from being attacked. Then do a search for "how to prune roses."

Google "weed identification scotland" and you will find numerous guides to identifying and eradicating common weeds. Here's one. Here's another. Some of them you can pull up roots and all, some of them you have to dig the roots out, and some can be controlled by mowing or cutting them down. Use gloves, because some weeds (stinging nettle, giant hogweed) can burn your skin.

There is a ton of how-to information about gardening on the Web. When you are just starting, it is hard to tell the difference between a weed and a desirable plant, but over time your observation skills will improve.

OK, I see the pictures, but they are too far away to ID the individual weeds.
posted by caryatid at 7:58 AM on July 15, 2014

Here's some generic advice for weeds that works well. Weed often until you get a feel for growth patterns and what will take over in your area. It's good to get weeds before they are established--the roots are easier to remove and you can nip them before they go to seed. Then you can figure out a maintenance schedule and stick with that. And do try to stick to it--again, entrenched weeds are more of a pain to dig your way out of than doing weekly pulls.

Loose mulch (bark, grass clippings, etc) can make your life easier in terms of retaining water when it gets warm, feeding roots, and pulling weeds up. If the weeds take root in mulch they are generally easier to remove.

Definitely read up on pruning roses. This is a case where diagrams and pictures are helpful. I taught myself how to do it over time, but I would not call my roses perfect or prize-winning or anything. When I have time I do manual removal of pests, because it is fun to squish aphids. If you are worried about chemicals at all, I've had luck with various mixes of water/peppermint oil/cayenne that sort of thing. There's rose spray recipes online, and some people sell it. If you need to keep the roses looking PERFECT then lackadaisical hippy stuff probably won't do.

If worse comes to worst and you lose some rose bushes and must replace them, try to find some that grow well in your area. I live in the NW corner of the US (temperate rainforest land, not totally dissimilar to a lot of the weather in the UK) and I love roses, but I pick recommended ones for my area.

I'm sorry about this! It almost seems like dirty pool to rent to someone and then tell them they must care for "varsity-level" plants. Good luck.
posted by Lardmitten at 11:24 AM on July 15, 2014

Just in case it's a useful thing to say: it's OK to find an expert to look after the garden, if that's a viable option for you. My rented house comes with a fairly large garden and a similar requirement that I keep it tidy; I've found it's far less stressful for me to pay a gardener to look after it than to be constantly worrying about what I should be doing and whether I'm doing it well enough.

Apologies if you've already considered and dismissed the idea.

That aside... I can't help with rose care advice, but if you could post some close-ups of specific plants, please, that might help with identifying the weeds. From the first photo, I think you might have some bindweed and perhaps some buttercups, but I can't see leaves or flowers in enough detail to be sure.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:17 PM on July 15, 2014

Echoing Lardmitten - do whatever it takes to keep ahead of the weeds taking over. Schedule a regular time for search and destroy - once you get the feel for it, you'll recognize that even if you pay someone, they may well not be digging thoroughly enough to pull up the root of each weed. I just paid hundreds for two guys to come in and redeem a small, badly thatched front yard, and within days new weeds were sprouting up. But at least it's at a point I can manage now - I use a rounded plastic stool to sit on so I don't burn out physically, and a chisel to drive down deep enough to get at the root of each weed. With Bermuda grass, which spreads through tenacious rhizomes, you'll develop a feel for when you've got it: drive the chisel deep enough that you can feel it doesn't meet stem resistance, angle it to loosen the dirt around the root, grasp the thick stem just above the tender bottom fibers, tug gently enough not to break anything, pull it up above surface and shake off excess dirt before putting in a container from which it will not drop. Kind of satisfying, in a weird way.
posted by mmiddle at 6:31 AM on July 16, 2014

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