I find it difficult to project what is best to do for your gardens lately. My observation is that each year weather conditions and timing are not typical as we have known in the past. Using my own garden as a barometer, I notice that the cycle of blooms vary from two to six weeks in the past four years.
This year I was very late getting my roses pruned. It was well into March and there were blooms in only four weeks instead of the usual six to eight. This was all possible due to weather conditions and the warming of soil from warmer than normal temperatures for this time of year. Most roses are at least in the second cycle of bloom. I have some that are near the end of their second cycle, which peaked the week of April 11.
I had very few to select from for the Pacific Southwest District Convention/Rose Show April 23. Maybe there will be an extra bloom cycle this year.
This month’s column is about what to do in your garden to help bring your roses back into bloom production, no matter what condition they are in. When blooms fade it is best to remove them and to dispose of them completely – don’t leave them in your garden or put them in you compost pile – make sure to put them into your green waste barrel. It’s unlikely that all blooms are at the same stage of development.
If there are multiple blooms, just remove those that are faded. Continue shaping the bush for best production by pruning the cane to an outward facing bud. Each leaf axis has a bud. Knowing this makes it easy to discern an outward facing bud. If possible, select a bud on a cane no smaller than the diameter size of a wooden pencil.
Continue fertilizing – hopefully you are ready for the fourth application. As I always say, organics are much better for your soil and ultimately for your garden and the environment. The soil microbiology is complex and multi-tiered. A healthy garden soil system is teeming with beneficial microbes which create a sustainable soil “immune system.” In fact, plants grown with organic fertilizers are themselves more resistant to pests and diseases. If organic fertilizers are used continually you will use less over time and save money as well as building a more viable sustaining healthy soil.
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 killing off entire portions of it. Chemical fertilizers are salts.
Salts absorb water and dehydrate the soil microbes which are the foundation of the soil nutrient system. The fact that the areas water already has high levels of salt only increases the problem salt causes to plants environment. 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.
Chemical fertilizers are artificial growth stimulants and 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) stay where you put them, break down slowly, 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 start using organics? Give it a year, and see if your roses don’t reward you.
For this month’s application of fertilizer, I recommend using one with higher percentage of phosphate. If the product has the NPK numbers on the packaging the middle number reflects phosphate. Phosphate helps to strengthen root systems and aids the plant to withstand stress from warmer temperatures and also assists in bloom production. A word of caution: never fertilize a plant while it is water stressed. Always water the day before applying any fertilizer and then water it in.
I’ve noticed that powdery mildew is present this year in most gardens. While not too obvious, keep an eye for worsening condition. Treating is dependent on your level of acceptance. There are some organic formulas using neem oil, insecticidal soaps, baking soda, etc. Do not use a formula that treats everything.
Use only a product specifically for the problem. Read the labels and use accordingly and use safety equipment to avoid exposure to contaminates if you choose chemical. One must cover up bare body parts when applying chemical treatments for disease or pests. Use approved goggles for eye protection, respirator mask, long sleeve shirt and water/chemical resistant boots and gloves. Remove clothing used immediately when treatment is completed and wash. Take a good shower to remove any possible contamination to yourself.
Our gardens are showing increased prevalence of Black Spot and a new pest called Chilli Thrip, which is much smaller than the Western Thrip, currently in our gardens and more devastating as they eat all vegetation. Control is quite difficult and treatments are being studied.
It is never too late to apply a thick layer of mulch. I prefer composted mulch, not coarse wood forest products, applied to a depth of 4” inches.
Now, let’s get out there and spread the word and the joy of roses!