Roses are beautiful, but there is a “Dark Side”……. Spraying.

No matter how hard you have worked to buy only “disease resistant “ roses, you probably have noticed that almost all roses require some sort of spray program to keep fungus and insects under control.


The number one thing you need to remember when spraying  is this:  Don’t spray anything, not even so called “natural” products, without wearing proper safety equipment.  You don’t have to fear chemical or natural pesticides, you just need to respect them.

Here is how I like to explain it  ….  Imagine spraying orange juice.   Orange juice is good for you to drink.  However, would you want to breath it into your lungs, or get it into your eyes?  Of course not!   If you are not willing to wear protection, then please don’t spray, period.

fullfaceHere are some questions I get all the time:

Question:  Do I really need a respirator?  It makes me look like Darth Vader.   I use one of those paper masks.

Answer:  Yes, you need to wear a pesticide respirator.  A paper dust mask or a bandana will only block out the large droplets, not the vapors.  If you can smell it, you are breathing it!

Question:  I wear glasses.  Do I really need goggles?

Answer:  Glasses without side shields do not protect your eyes from spray droplets and vapor.   Either wear goggles over your glasses or get some safety glasses with side shields (at a minimum).

tyvekQuestion:  I wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and nitril gloves.  Does this protect me?

Answer:  Yes, this works fine, but a better solution is to use an outer garment like a Tyvek coverall.  That way you get to wear something cooler under the coverall, and most importantly, you don’t have to wash the coverall in your washing machine (like you would the long pants and long sleeve shirt).  You just reuse it 6 – 10 times and then dispose and get a new one.

Question:  What about spraying in greenhouses?

Answer:  Spraying in a greenhouse gives the grower no way to escape the spray.  You should use extreme care while spraying in an enclosed environment and wear all the recommend PPE (personal protective equipment).

NitrilGlovesspoonOne other very important thing to ponder:  If you live in a neighborhood, take your neighbors into consideration.   If your neighbor cooks steaks on the grill at 5:00 pm every Saturday night, then that is NOT a good time to spray.   I write this with a smile since this should be obvious, but after many years of talking to people all over the country, I’ve realized sadly, it isn’t obvious to everyone.  Bottom line:  pick a time that no people or pets will be affected.  Most sprays will be dry to the touch in 30 minutes or less.

Planting bare root roses.

raised bed blog

I planted roses today in a new bed  just outside our fenced backyard.   I live on six acres in a farm and ranch area.   I actually built the bed last year too late to plant bare root roses,  so the bed was planted in mass with marigolds.   Wow, it was beautiful.  We used just over 120 plants to fill the bed.

This year I removed the ends of the bed and brought my granddad’s old tiller out of the barn and gave it a good tilling.  The soil was full of dark matter and earthworms.   That got me excited I can tell you.

I know most of you in suburban areas wouldn’t want to use cross ties for your raised beds.  However, these work great on a large property in beds planted out of the “proper yard area”.    For nicer areas, Home Depot and Lowes have all kinds of keystone and other landscaping materials for raised beds.



unprunned bare root blogpruned bare root blog


While many of the bare roots you will receive will have canes up to 16 inches long, I almost always cut these back to no longer than 8 inches.   It’s true that you will have more growth immediately if you leave the canes longer.  However, I’m more interested in growing roots first, roses later.   Therefore, I prune mine back much shorter.  I also remove any small canes and anything that is damaged or dead.







cone blog



Prepare planting holes approximately 14″-20″ wide and 12″-18″ inches deep (or the depth of your improved soil if less than 18 inches). Once you have prepared the hole, place some of the soil mixture back into the planting hole forming a cone shaped mound which should approximate the conical shape of the rose roots.    At this point I like to add my mycorrhizae (another blog to come at a later date.).

rose on cone blog



Gently move the soil you removed around the roots of the rose and give the soil a gentle (not hard) press.   Next you will want to water the rose with a gentle flow of water to not only hydrate the new bush but to also make sure there are no air pockets in the new soil around the roots of the plant.

mulch plant blog

Finally, cover the canes for a week with damp mulch to keep the canes from drying out before new feeder roots develop.











Tip:   Sometimes bare root roses will start to push out new growth during shipment.  This is normal, especially in the months of March and April.   If you cover this new growth with mulch it will usually tend to burn and die

tender growth blog

once the mulch is removed.  When I have plants that are already pushing out, I use a brown paper bag from the grocery store.   Simply cut a circle the size of a silver dollar in the center of the bottom of the bag.   Cut slits up the side of the bag about six inches long to be used as anchors.   Turn the bag upside down over the rose and then anchor the bag with soil.   The bag will keep moisture in.  The hole in the top will allow air circulation and just enough light to harden off the tender growth.  You can normally remove the bag after one week.

cut bag blogbagged blog

Final thought:   Even if the new premature growth dies, the rose will push out another cane where this one originally formed.  Just be sure to take a good pair of sharp pruners and “clip” the dead growth off at the cane.  Do not twist it off as that could damage other immature bud eyes just beneath the surface of the cane.

The Basics of Rose Growing 101

Coretta_Scott_King_small1.  Roses Require a minimum of 5 hours of sunlight per day.

More is better, but if you have at least five hours of direct sunlight, you have passed the first challenge.  If you have a rose bush that is not getting enough sun, the spring is an excellent time to transplant it in a better location.  (A good blog topic for the future.)

2.   Roses need a balanced soil with good drainage.

If possible, a raised bed is highly recommended for roses. There are a number of building materials that are cost effective and attractive. The rationale for a raised bed goes back to the basics listed above.

While roses require a good deal of water, their roots won’t tolerate standing water.  It is very important that your planting area have good drainage. A raised bed will virtually guarantee this while allowing easy control of the soil you use. If it is not possible to have a raised bed, then give the proposed planting area the following test:  Dig a hole approximately 18″ wide by 18″ deep. Fill the hole with water from your garden hose. If the water has all drained from the hole in 30 minutes, you have sufficient drainage to plant roses.

The soil you use should be balanced. A good rule-of-thumb has always been to use 1/3 sand, 1/3 topsoil and 1/3 organic matter like humus or peat moss. This should be well mixed. For bigger projects, a tiller is recommended. For small projects a wheel barrow and a shovel work fine. Some nurseries offer a “rose mix” and this can make the job easier.  Be sure to test the pH of your soil. You can do this by either sending a soil sample to the Agriculture Extension Service in your area, or by purchasing a good pH meter.  Roses like to grow in slightly acidic soil. I target a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 for my rose beds. Now is the time to get your soil moving in the right direction to ensure a good rose growing season.

TY LOW RES3.   Roses need plenty of water and nutrients.

 There are a few important things to remember when planting new roses. You will want your roses to first establish a good root system, BEFORE you concentrate on blooms. When you give a rose bush nitrogen, you tell it to grow canes and leaves. Having more canes and leaves than the root system can support is not a good idea for obvious reasons. Therefore, DO NOT fertilize your newly planted rose bush until it has produced one complete bloom cycle. Instead, use a good plant starter like Nature’s Nog.  It is also great to add to your liquid feeding  program for established plants. The only exception to the “no fertilizer” rule at planting time is the use of organic fertilizers. The reason they don’t apply to the rule is because they will take several months to break down and be usable to the plant. In the meantime, however, earthworms will find the organics, giving you the double benefit of worm castings and aeration prior to becoming food for your  plants. Adding a “non-chemical fertilizer” like Mills Magic Mix to the surface of the soil and lightly scratching it into the top two inches is highly recommended. Use two cups for hybrid teas and other large roses and one cup for miniature roses.

Another product you should definitely add when you plant (anything) is the natural fungus, mycorrhizae. This fungus will work with your root system to establish a lifetime bond allowing your roses’ roots to dramatically expand. Since mycorrhizae is actually a living organism, you won’t have to re-apply for many years.

Roses need a lot of water to be at their best.  Watering by hand with a water wand is great for the roses and good mental therapy for the gardener.  In moderate climates, one good soaking a week may be all you need.   Hotter climates may require watering every day.   Just use good common sense.  If the roses are wilting in any way, they are not getting enough water.  The soil should be damp, but not “wet” just beneath the mulch.

Class73gold4.  Almost all roses require a preventative spray program for common fungus issues like blackspot, powdery mildew, rust, and downy mildew.

Regardless of claims made by rose companies of “disease resistance”, most roses require a spray program to prevent disease such as blackspot, powdery mildew and rust. The key word to remember is “prevent”.

Once your roses become infected, left untreated you can generally count on loosing most of the leaves. No leaves means no photosynthesis and that equates to NO ROSES! While you can spray to eliminate such problems, the best strategy is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

First, a little lesson in terminology.  The term “pesticide” includes fungicide, insecticide, miticide and herbicide. I tell you this because some people confuse the word “pesticide” with “insecticide”. I don’t like to spray pesticides any more often than necessary and I want to use the least toxic materials that will actually work. This is why I have choosen products that only need to be sprayed every two weeks.   We will talk about specific spray programs in a later blog.  If you need that information immediately , just go to our site under “downloads” and click on “Recommended Spray Programs”.

For now, let’s talk about some basic rules for spraying.  Most important, always wear protective clothing and a respirator.  I’ll do a separate blog on spray safety in the near future.  Choose a spray day that generally is good for you every week.  For me, that is usually Friday. If it rains on Friday, I spray on Saturday but keep my regular day (Friday) in two weeks when it is time to spray again. If it rains after you have sprayed, the plants are protected IF the spray dried before the rain.