Temecula Valley Rose Society

Rose Care Corner, September 2005

by Frank Brines, Consulting Rosarian

We made it through the summer without too many HOT days, but August finally came back with the heat. September should start cooling down. Now is the time to go back to a good feeding program to nourish new growth and another bloom cycle. Each person has a different fertilizing program; if it works for you and you're happy with the results, then continue your program. I prefer to use organic fertilizers for several reasons. They help build up a diverse and abundant community of soil organisms which make nutrients more available to the plant roots, and they don't pollute the environment with excess nitrogen and phosphate which are common groundwater contaminants; they provide healthier food systems for healthier plants. Whatever the type of fertilizer you use be sure to deep water the night before and to feed early in the day. If you use inorganic fertilizers, I recommend that you avoid products with systemic insecticides and fungicides as these can harm beneficial insects and soil fungi.

You can also apply Epsom salts to each plant to promote basal cane development. Epsom salts are usually cheaper at a drugstore than they are at a garden center; it's the same stuff no matter where you buy it. Sprinkle two tablespoons beneath the plant, generally out near the drip line. Epsom salts help promote the production of new basal canes. As with feeding, be sure to water the night before application.

If you didn't do a light pruning earlier this month, now would be a good time to do that. Many people in desert climates like ours allow our roses to go into a summer dormancy period by leaving spent flowers and developing hips on the bushes for a month or six weeks. This is thought to produce hormones that tell the plant to produce new basal buds for the coming season of active growth. If you haven't done this, now is the time to deadhead. Also, be sure to thin out the middle of the bush for better air circulation to reduce the likelihood of disease and infestation. As always, prune out any dead wood and canes that rub against other canes. Also, clean up any leaf litter from around the plants, as it may harbor disease-causing fungi and insects; do not compost the litter, throw it out! Finally, some cool morning give all the plants a good, high-powered shower (tops and bottoms of leaves) to help rinse off the dust of summer, the fungal spores that adhere to the dust, and possible insect pests.

If you have a rose that you want to replace, now is a good time to dig it up and discard it or give it to someone. After you remove the old rose, fill the hole with amended soil. (This is simply a practical consideration: A gaping hole is dangerous and it can end up filling with irrigation water and becoming muddy!) You are better off actually replacing the rose with a specimen in January when the suppliers deliver their freshest product to market. Removing the old rose now allows you to work in soil that is not wet from winter rains, so you run less risk of compacted soil.




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