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.

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