Roses by Russell Illig, Digital Vision, Courtesy of Getty Images
Roses, THE undisputed flower of romance, about which countless songs and poems have been penned, can be grown organically by the home gardener through a careful mix of planning and timely, informed and continued efforts of pest and disease management. The following fast facts can serve to raise a rose garden that would inspire the inner-Bard in all of us.
Leave the Sand at the Beach
Roses do not grow well in sandy soil so instead fill a sand bucket with peat moss, manure and compost to create an optimum growing environment. Your roses will be rewarded with a bed that drains well, limits nutrient leaching and supports the teeming microbial life below the surface.
Give Them Guidance as Well as Air
General tips would include having garden soil tested for pH (6.5 to 7.0 is best for roses) and nutrient availability. Also, allow plenty of room between young plants to aid in good air circulation and add bone meal to the planting "hole" to promote root growth. Above all, consult the growing tips provided with your specific cultivars for guidance, ask your gardening center pro, your neighbor whose garden you admire, or visit other About.com sites.
March Out Like a Lion
Fungus control for roses begins in early spring. Prevent black spot by spraying rose leaves, top and bottom with non-fat skim milk in early AM, every 5 days for 7 weeks. An invisible milk fungus will grow, coating the leaves and leaving no place for black spot to take hold.
Make Them Throw in the Towel
If powdery mildew, a whitish-grey powder, has been a frequent visitor to your late-summer rose garden, begin preventive spraying in the early spring. Mix a knock-out potion of 2 Tablespoons of baking soda and 1 Tablespoon of liquid hand soap into 2 Quarts of water. Make sure that the spray coats both sides of the leaves and continue applying once a week for four weeks.
You Pricked me Once
Use fireplace tongs to reach in close to remove leaf debris or long-handled shears when pruning to avoid being pricked.
Always Bet on the Tortoise
Fertilize as indicated by soil testing, avoiding inorganic quick-fix formulations such as those designer-colored ones available in hose-end sprayers, opting instead for slow release mixes that feed over the length of the growing season. Avoid feeding roses after mid-summer if winter freezes may damage vulnerable, young growth. Remember, roses may not be able to speak, but leaves, buds and flowers have a tale to tell to the attentive gardener.
Roses Love Compost Tea
Compost Tea, while not a panacea for all rose problems, when sprayed onto the rose garden will thwart pathogens and pests, armor plant leaves against infection, bind nutrients to leaf surfaces and improve the oxygen-carrying capacity and water-retentive ability of soils. Many resources are available to aid the home gardener in either making their own tea or in purchasing commercial preparations.
Baby, It's Cold Outside
To protect rose bushes during the winter, fill a topless, bottomless cardboard box with an "insulation" of leaves or compost.