March rose care FUNdamentals


As of this writing, El Nino hasn’t hit yet. Although we have had some rain, we must be aware this area can still get some heavy rain as late as April. I’m beginning to think that the current climate may be the new normal, as the past three years have reflected similar spring weather patterns.

With daytime temperatures in February ranging 70s to 80s, and what little rain we’ve had the roses have burst with growth – some even have buds. I’ve had to begin irrigating my bushes, and I was late in getting mine pruned. If you prune on schedule, I’m sure you are seeing a good flush of new leaves.

Be sure the ground around, under, and between bushes is clear of debris. Also, remove all old leaves that may be left on the bush. This cleanliness with help keep down disease.

If you didn’t use a lime-sulphur dormant spray earlier, you can still do so. Read the label and use the recommended dilution for “growing season instructions.” Be sure to saturate all canes and the soil surface of the entire bed.

Take time now to inspect and make any necessary repairs to your irrigation system. Drip systems are the most efficient and they avoid problems created by above-ground sprayers and sprinklers, which waste water (very important during our serious drought) and can foster molds (e.g., mildew and rust). For best results and efficiency, be sure to time the irrigation so it is complete before it gets hot (preferably by midmorning, that is, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.). If possible, avoid any over spray or misting of water being applied elsewhere in your garden that may hit your roses. Avoid daytime watering or when there is any wind.

Now would be the time to sprinkle one-half cup to one cup of Epson salts widely around each rose bush (use half as much for minis and mini-floras). There is some indication that this helps stimulate new cane growths known as “basal breaks” at the bud union (the big part next to the ground where grafting was done).

When the new growth is two to 3 inches long, you can begin fertilizing. I suggest an initial feeding each year be higher in nitrogen to encourage new stem and leaf growth. In about two weeks, apply fertilizer that is higher in phosphate to give roots a boost at start of season.

I highly recommend organic type fertilizers as versus inorganic or “chemical” ones. Organics foster better soil development, a richer, livelier, more viable community of soil organisms that break the elements into easily absorbed form and release them slowly. They will “build” soil structure into a healthy component and when used regularly will develop a soil rich in reserve energy, allowing you to use less product with the same results.

Apply minimum of two to 4 inches of organic composted mulch over the entire garden surface to insulate the upper eight to 12 inches where most rose roots feed and to reduce evaporation and conserve water, while still providing sufficient moisture. It will also supply nutrients to build the soil and your roses.

Be sure to visit the Rose Haven Heritage Garden located at 30500 Jedediah Smith Road (the cross street is Cabrillo Avenue) in Temecula, a 3.4-acre rose garden owned and maintained by the Temecula Valley Rose Society, a 501(c)(3) organization, supported with donations from kind people like you. Look for the donation box when you visit! Also, visit regularly for great information and schedule of events. Spread the joy of roses!

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