This year’s rain came in bursts and made it difficult to complete timely pruning. For many people, their pruning had to be spread out over an unusually long period.
For you who were fortunate enough to get their roses pruned by mid-February or even March, you are probably enjoying (or are about to enjoy) your first real flush of blooms for 2017.
Climate change was influencing the weather and effecting the usual pruning schedule. The erratic temperatures also had a bearing on the growth of our plants. Periods of heat encouraged vegetative growth and bud formation with possibly shorter stems even though cool rains kept the soil cool.
Roses love food. Preferably good quality food. Regularly provided food. Continue fertilizing. Hopefully you are scheduled for the third application-organic. As I always say, organics are much better for your soil and ultimately for your garden and the environment.
The soil does need a supply of organic material such as humus incorporated into the depths. For established gardens that isn’t easily accomplished, however adding three to 4 inches of a good composted mulch over the entire garden, leaving a 12-inch circle open around base of each bush. Earthworms are able to transport this mulch down into the soil where the microbiology is complex and multi-tiered.
A healthy garden soil system is teeming with beneficial microbes that inhibit, compete with, and consume disease-causing organisms. This creates a sustainable soil “immune system.”
In fact, plants grown with organic fertilizers are themselves more resistant to pests and diseases. In addition, when you feed those beneficial organisms, they feed your roses. That’s because they are busy breaking down organic matter and releasing mineral nutrients slowly and reliably.
I’ve recently learned that extra phosphate in the fertilizer that you use is most important in assisting in creating a soil environment that aids immensely in helping plants to be resistant to pest and diseases. It also helps plants to develop hardier root systems and larger blooms.
Many gardeners become discouraged when they first experiment with organic treatments while still using chemical fertilizers. It is difficult – in fact, almost impossible – to have it both ways.
Chemical fertilizers negatively impact the soil food web by poisoning entire portions of it. The fact is, chemical fertilizers are salts. What gardener hasn’t seen what table salt does to a slug or snail?
Salts absorb water and dehydrate the soil microbes which are the foundation of the soil nutrient system. Once you’ve used chemical fertilizers regularly you must keep adding more because the soil microbiology is weakened and unable to do its job of releasing naturally available nutrients to your plants.
This year’s rains have given us the benefit of leaching out the built up salt from our gardens, provided there is sufficient good drainage.
Chemical fertilizers are artificial growth stimulants and, in the long run, harm your soil and pollute local waterways because as dissolved salts they quickly leach through the soil (becoming unavailable to your plants) and enter the ground water.
On the other hand, organic amendments (such as manure, compost or mulch) break down slowly, generally staying where you put them, and don’t contribute to ground water pollution (as long as you prevent run off into drains). In addition, they improve the soil food web, so in the long run you end up using less product.
How about swearing off chemical fertilizers for the rest of the year and starting to use organics? Give it a year. See if your roses don’t reward you! Fish emulsion is also a good amendment to apply either foliarly or onto the soil around each bush.
There are many opportunities in the next month or two to attend local rose shows and see, learn, smell different varieties. From April 22 to 23 is the Rose Show and Convention at the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia, April 29 to 30, San Diego Rose Society will hold their annual Rose Show Liberty Station NTC Promenade. Watch for news of these shows and plan to attend at least one.
For more ideas, visit TVRS’ Rose Haven garden at 30592 Jedediah Smith Road in Temecula, as well as www.TemeculaValleyRoseSociety.org/index.shtml.