Monday, March 30, 2009

Garden Tips: Growing Roses

How I would love to be transported into a scented Elizabethan garden with herbs and honeysuckles, a knot garden and roses clambering over a simple arbor... ~Rosemary Verey

Growing roses successfully can be a challenge, especially if you are trying to do it organically. I've been researching and experimenting since last summer and wanted to share more of what I have found. What do roses need? A good, rich soil that is amended with compost, humus and, if you have it, aged manure. They also need at least 6 hours of sun per day and deep, weekly watering-which is best done in the morning and below the foliage, not from above. Good air circulation is also important. Do not crowd your roses. Give them the room they need on all sides, which will help keep fungus to a minimum. These are the basics, but there are more things you can do to encourage your roses.

If your roses had black spot last year, remove all the old mulch from each plant. Give the ground a bit to dry and air out, then replace with new mulch. Before doing that you can add some nutrients to the soil around the plant. There are MANY combinations that rose gardeners swear by, and you'll have to find the one that is right for your soil and your roses. You can try 1/2 cup blood meal, 1/4 cup Epsom salts and 1 cup of lime. Do not dig it in where it will touch the stems or disturb the roots. Work it in around the plant carefully. Some gardeners prefer Sulfate of potash magnesia to Epsom salts-- it can be found at garden centers. If your soil is not acidic you can use gypsum instead of lime in the same measurement. You can also use alfalfa meal as a soil additive or make this "tea" for your roses: Add 10 cups of alfalfa pellets and 4 cups Epsom salts to a 32 gallon plastic garbage can. Fill with water, stir and brew the tea for a day or two. Use one gallon per rose bush.

Mildew can be a problem with roses too. First, give your plants space as I mentioned--- no crowding. If you've had the problem on a regular basis you can start spraying with a mixture of 1 tbsp. baking soda to 1 gallon of water. Spray on the foliage before as a preventive measure. Also, always keep the mulch away from the stem of the plant.

You can also try companion planting to aid your roses. Any garlic related plant is a good choice for rose companions. You can plant regular or elephant garlic, chives, or society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). These help repel pests, while the following plants will help attract good insects to your roses: dill, alyssum, coriander, and gypsophila (baby's breath). Do be careful not to disturb your rose's roots when planting any of these companions.

Roses like a good, deep soak to promote deep rooting and they will actually develop drought tolerance if established this way. Frequent light waterings promote shallow roots that will depend on frequent watering. Applying the water slowly with soaker hoses or drip irrigation allows the water to soak in rather than running off, keeps water off the foliage (wet leaves spread fungal diseases), and reduces the puddling which can cause clay soils to form a hard surface less permeable to water.

Epsom salts has long been used to feed roses because it helps grow stronger stems, new growth and can even improve the color. If your roses are new this year, start with 2 teaspoons Epsom salts in early spring mixed into the soil a couple inches from the base of the plant. Older roses can handle more-- about a 1/2 cup worked into the soil four times per season. You can also use Epsom salts for your tomatoes. Mix 2 tablespoons in with a gallon of water and water the plants about 2 months after they have germinated.

Learn how to grow miniature roses on OFL:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your tips. My roses need some help this year. Once the snow melts and stays away we can begin the work.


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