Rose gardening can be easy with some weekly maintenance. It is especially rewarding when you bring a bouquet of fragrant blooms into your home. A few tips will get you off to a successful start.
Soil Preparation and Site
Thorough soil prepartion is essential to getting your roses off to a good start. Roses prefer rich, well -drained organic soil. Use about 50% off your existing soil and 50% good quality compost. We like cotton burr compost which is chuck full of nutrients and soil conditioning agents. Roses also benefit from plenty of sunshine, at least 5-6 hours and good air circulation around the plants. A raised bed or higher ground is an ideal location. Fences and walls that restrict air movement increase the chance of foliar disease.
Prune roses in late winter or early spring when the first signs of new growth appear. Cut out any damaged or dead stems. Then cut out all but about 4 or 5 healthy main stems. Finally cut these stems down to one third to one half, depending on how tall you want your roses to be. Prune to open up the center, for better air circulation and sunlight.
Water and Fertilize
Water roses frequently but not heavily. Water early in the day so that foliage is dry by evening. Water at the base of the plant and avoid overhead watering. If there is no significant rainfall, water your roses at least twice a week and perhaps three time if the temperatures are above 90 degrees. Use an all purpose rose food. We like Espoma’s Rose-tone with beneficial soil microbes. Rose-tone is an organic, slow relase fertilizer that can be used safely throughout the hot summer months without the risk of fertilizer burn. Stop feeding and pruning rosesd by the end of August
Mulch and Disease Control
Mulch 2-3 inches of clean organic mulch like wood chips, pine needles or grass clippings. Mulch reduces weeds and leaf diseases and cuts down on watering requirements.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden (Mobot), roses in southern Illinois can best be protected with 15 inches of good clean mulch, compost or shredded hardwood bark. Perhaps the most important point to remember is not to mulch too soon. Mobot recommends mulching around Thanksgiving. Mulch keeps the ground frozen thereby protecting the plants from alternate freezing and thawing. You are not trying to keep the plants warm.
For more individual and in depth advice on roses visit Susan Fox at Gaga’s Gardens. Susan is an avid gardener, speaker and consulting rosarian.