Rose Growing Basics – Soil Fertilizer and Pests

Rose Growing Basics - Soil Fertilizer and Pests
by Kent Higgins

In the Deep South roses during May are now perhaps in full bloom; in the Louisville area large buds are about to burst forth in a blaze of glory; in the extreme north new growth is very small and tender; but wherever you live nature is doing her best.

Many things help produce blue ribbon winners, but three things are absolutely necessary if rose plants are to grow even halfway satisfactorily and continue blooming after the spring or early summer crop.

Lets have a look. Without sufficient water no plant part functions properly; fertilizers and nutrients cannot be taken up and digested; living cells especially in the foliage cannot divide and increase but decrease in size and amount, the process of manufacturing food via the green matter in the cells and sunlight is limited. In fact if the soil becomes too dry, the moisture already in the plant may be drawn back into the soil and in due time the plant will wilt and die.

Soil is seldom very dry in the spring or early summer, just another proof that nature is going to produce seed if possible. Sometimes water must be furnished to promote maximum growth. How much depends on how the rose beds are mulched (you do, dont you?) and the soil type. If mulched heavily (two inches for most materials) the soil will not dry out so quickly. A fine earth mulch is achieved by scratching the surface one-half to one inch deep as soon as the soil is workable after each rain or watering. I do not believe it as satisfactory in our area (Texas) as a good fibrous or refractory material. Refractory or solid materials are expanded by heat to form light, porous particles such as perlite, expanded aluminum silicate, vermiculite, expanded mica ore, or expanded shale. These are inert, add no humus but are long lasting because they do not decay. They should be raked up and removed before mounding with soil for winter protection but may be reused next year.

Plants must have plenty of water, yet the soil must drain well and not be waterlogged. You can easily determine if water is needed by taking a small trowel, remove a small amount of soil midway between two bushes to a depth of at least six inches”if it sticks together without exerting much pressure water is not needed. If the soil must be squeezed hard to stick together water is needed. lf it crumbles after considerable pressure it has become too dry and some feeder roots have already dried up. Should soil ever become this dry at least two inches of water will be needed (run hose for two hours in one spot). Do not let it get that dry. lf you dislike diggingPlant Stuff watch the weather report ” if rainfall of less than one inch has fallen in a seven day period use the hose. Better yet if there is a rainfall of less than an inch use the sprinklers to add the difference. A light watering on dry soil in hot summer is much worse than no watering. My beds usually have at least two inches of mulch and will take ten days to dry out but when water is applied there is enough to go ALL the way to the deepest roots. Only overhead sprinkling system soaks all surrounding areas thus preventing movement of moisture from the rose beds to drier areas.

Spraying for insects and fungus should not be done on a haphazard basis, a regular schedule must be maintained for good control. The thrips are now moving from the south, they will follow the spring bloom on north and much damage will be done every day. One spraying per week will help but not control (at least I have found nothing that will). You may kill all in your garden today but many more will fly in by tomorrow, and as new blooms open there will be unprotected petals for their feeding.

The bloom such as rose blooms is the primary source of infestation, that is all you need to concentrate on when you are planting a rose garden. Hold the spray high, let it fall right on the tips of the buds and into the open bloom. This does not take long and if done two or three times a week during the blooming period you will have good flowers. After the first big bloom crop the thrip problem is lessened and frequent spraying will not be needed. At least once each week check for insects, under as well as on the upper surface of the foliage (I usually do this when removing old blooms). There are plenty of good control materials on the market. lf the material you use is not doing the job, you better check your sprayer and the one doing the spraying.

Those little rabbits are mighty cute right now. hopping and playing in the moonlight but they may be the parents of several more before winter. How are they to know those plants are not growing for them to chew up when winter snow comes? Eliminate them right now while young and dumb. Cruel? Perhaps, but it will keep your blood pressure down next January.

We have discussed pinching buds off one or two of the new basal breaks to buildup the plant. It does pay dividends later on. As soon as the bud is large enough to definitely see which is the top set with five leaflets pinch off the bud just above this five leaflet. Let the weaker stems bloom, they wont make much in hot weather but those pinched will.

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