Temecula Valley Rose Society
Rose Care Corner, Aug 2006By Frank Brines, Consulting Rosarian
August is usually our hottest month, but not this year…or at least we hope not this year! Plants transpire through their leaves and petals, and hot and/or windy days can drive off moisture faster than the roots can replace it, so under those conditions you should water, water, water! Make sure to give each plant at least 1.5 inches of water three times a week. If you're not sure your garden needs watering, do the "finger test" by sticking your finger or a trowel two or three inches into the soil to check the moisture level. A four-inch layer of mulch on the entire garden (not just around the plants or in their watering basins) can prevent the root zone from drying out or becoming too hot.
You can also do a little light pruning and/or feeding but in our area it can be a good idea to give your roses a short summer dormancy. This means not dead heading or pruning until the weather cools off, or wait until late August if you want a bloom cycle in early October. I'm going to try getting a bloom cycle the first week of November, so I'll prune, feed, and apply Epsom salts six to eight weeks in advance, in early to mid September.
When you do start applying fertilizers again, please read the directions carefully! Also (and this is particularly applicable during the summer months) try getting by with a lighter application of fertilizers to prevent the buildup of nitrogen salts like urea. This isn't just a good idea for your garden: Water runoff of even natural chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphorus from home lawns and gardens is having a terrible impact on ground water, rivers, lakes, and the oceans. If you have runoff from your garden, try applying water in smaller amounts more often.
During hot weather watch out for spider mites. You'll usually find them on the underside of the lower leaves. They are very small and difficult to see, but if you run a finger along the underside of the leaf it will grainy. You can remove the lower leaves (up to eight to ten inches on the plant) as a preventive measure. You can also give plants a blast of water on the under sides of the leaves. If you like to keep dust off your plants, wash them early in the day and never when temperatures are above 80 degrees.
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