How Nature Works
Whether it is roses, other flower gardening, or just about any type of plant, the secret to successful organic gardening of any kind is to understand the way nature works. Nature always tries to maintain a delicate balance. By understanding the basics of how plants grow, you will understand how to maintain nature’s balance and thus keep your roses healthy. Basically, water and nutrients are absorbed into the root system and pulled up through the stems into the green leaves by the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a plant process that uses water and energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates that it uses for growth and other plant functions. The carbohydrates are stored in the branches and stems of roses, trees, and other plants. These stored carbohydrates are used as reserve energy for the plant. When a crises occurs, such as a broken stem or pathogenic attack, the stored carbohydrates are used. Stored carbohydrates are also used in the spring to create new stems and foliage. A natural soil environment teems with bacteria, fungi, nematodes, earthworms, and other soil organisms. Many of these soil organisms break down dead leaves and other materials into humus, which enriches the soil. Other soil organisms form symbiotic relationships with roses and other plants.
A symbiotic relationship is a relationship that is beneficial to all participants in the relationship. Mycorrhizal fungus creates an important symbiotic relation with roses and other plants. Mycorrhiza attaches itself to the roots of your roses and other plants. It uses some of the carbohydrates stored by your plants to grow, but helps your roses and other plants by making minerals more available. In a healthy soil environment, the mycorrhizae attached to one of your roses will grow and become interconnected to the mycorrhizae of other roses and plants. In effect, it provides a secondary root system for your garden plants. Roses and other plants also release exudates from their roots that attract beneficial organisms. As an example, exudates from rose roots attract friendly bacterium that ward off pathogenic fungi. Beneficial soil organisms, which are found in natural humus and compost, also make minerals more available to your roses and other plants. Beneficial soil organisms also help protect roses and other plants from predatory life forms.
Another important thing to understand is that plants of all kinds are a little bit like humans–some get along very well and some don’t. Some plants grow well together and actually help each other survive. Other plants inhibit neighboring plants. Plants that grow well together are referred to as companion plants. Companion plants are an important factor in any garden. We will talk more about them later.
Organic growers recognize that pathogenic attacks are an indication that the plant or plants are out of balance. Organic growers know that pathogens can’t get a foothold on a healthy plant. Commonly used chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides destroy soil organisms and throw roses, flowers, and other plants out of balance. The imbalance created by these chemicals attracts pathogens.
Our meddling also creates havoc in roses and other plants. Over-pruning reduces carbohydrate storage, throws the plant out of balance, and often opens the door to pathogens. Hybridization often creates weaker plants. The practice of grafting rose stems onto a different root stock often creates roses that are susceptible to pathogenic attacks.
Creating Your Own Rose Garden If you want to plant a rose garden that consists of two or three roses, or a whole bunch of roses, you need to begin planning. The first thing to do is to think about where you want to plant your roses and what colors you might like. Be sure to consider the other colors in your yard, as well as your house, walkways, etc. Roses grow best with a minimum of six hours of full sun, although some varieties can tolerate a bit more shade. Your shade/full sun areas will affect your possible rose garden locations. The next thing to do is to find out what roses grow well in your climate. Look at rose gardens in your local area to see what roses seem to grow well and how much you like them. Ask nursery experts what roses grow well in your area. Another good source is your local rose club. This will give you a good idea of the colors, sizes, and other characteristics that will grow well in your area.
Companion Plants Once you have decided on the roses you like, you need to learn about companion plants. Roses really do love garlic, as well as other plants of the onion family. Onions are of the order Asparaginales and family Alliaceae. The onion family is made up of 500 species. Although planting garlic in your rose garden will help protect your roses, there are many other onion varieties that will protect your roses and also provide beautiful flowers to enhance your roses. Marigolds, mignonettes, and thyme are also good companions for roses. When you are deciding on companion plants for roses, check to see when they bloom. Other characteristics, such as texture and height, should also be considered before deciding on your companion plants. An excellent book on companion planting is Roses Love Garlic by Louise Riotte. Here’s an interesting link about companion planting.
Choosing Your Plants Choose hardy roses. Generally, old varieties of roses are the hardiest. Try to pick roses that haven’t been grafted onto a different root stock. Choose the colors you like. Bare-root roses are less expensive than potted roses, but potted roses are easier to plant and more likely to survive Choose flowers from the onion family, or other companion families that will complement your roses. Once you have chosen your colors and plants, and have decided how to arrange them and what your rose garden will look like, you can dig in and begin working with your soil.
Soil Soil is the key to healthy and beautiful roses. Dig into your rose plot in several places to see what the soil it is like. Soil is seldom perfect. It may have too much clay, too much sand, tons of rocks, or any of a dozen different problems. pH is also important. You should test your soil pH. pH kits are available at nurseries and over the internet. A good pH test kit is worth the expense because inexpensive ones are often inaccurate. Most roses grow well with a soil pH of 5.5 to 7, although a pH of 6.5 is ideal. pH is a measure of acid-base balance and uses a scale of 1 to 14. 1 is extremely acid; 7 is neutral; and 14 is extremely basic (alkaline). Few flowers will grow in a pH that is too acid or too alkaline. A pH of 6.5 is the point where nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, plus trace minerals, are most easily available to your flowers. Arid regions tend to have alkaline soils and regions with heavy rainfall tend to have acidic soils.
How Much To Water Roses Roses like a lot of water during the growing and blooming season. But this doesn’t mean give them a small amount every day. Like with watering other plants, it is better to water deeply rather than just a little bit at a time, so that the water can fully penetrate the roots. Just sprinkling them with the hose is not enough. Let the hose give your roses a full, thorough soaking. A good four or five gallons worth of water per rose bush is a basic rule of thumb. Depending on how much rain your garden gets, a deep watering once a week is usually enough even in drier parts of the country. If it is extremely hot and dry, perhaps every four days or so. Avoid watering during the heat of the day in direct sunlight. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to water.
The Magic of Humus If your soil is out of the correct pH range, you can change it. This is where the magic of soil biology creates miracles. Humus is the magic formula for most soil problems. Humus, which you can create by composting with compost bins, will help improve your soil pH. It will also improve soil that is too sandy, has too much clay, or has other problems. If your soil is extremely acid, which can happen in an area with heavy rainfall, or soil that has had overdoses of chemical N-P-K fertilizer, you may need to add limestone to “sweeten” the soil. For most other soil problems, humus is the answer. You may not have humus available. If that is the case, don’t worry. We will discuss how mulching can help your roses. For more information on composting, see the Composting Guide. You can create compost with plant clippings and other yard debris, rather than throwing them away. They will provide you with a continuous supply of humus in the future. You should be careful if you decide to purchase compost. Many compost products are not fully composted and are still too ‘hot’ for your garden. Organic fertilizers should be added during the growing cycle. You can even find special organic rose fertilizer that is designed specifically with rose gardening in mind.
Planting Roses It is best to plant your roses between spring and early summer so that they have time to develop a root system before winter sets in. Roses don’t like to be crowded, so give them enough room. Hybrid teas, grand floras, and floribundas should be planted 18 to 30 inches apart. Climbers should be planted 8 to 12 feet apart. Miniatures can be planted approximately 12 to 15 inches apart.
If you have container roses, make sure they have been watered and keep them wet while working. Dig holes for your roses that are 2 ½ times the size of the root ball. It is a good idea to put some well composted organic matter in the bottom of the hole. Mix more composted matter with the soil that you removed, but are planning to put back in the hole. If you don’t have composted matter available, you can substitute a good quality planting mix. It is best to use planting mix that doesn’t contain chemical fertilizers, although it is sometimes difficult to find.
Take the rose plant out of the container and put the rose plant in the hole. Pack the prepared dirt under and around the rose, making sure that the dirt on the top of the rose root-ball is level with the ground. It is a good idea to put a straight stick across the hole to make sure the dirt level of the rose is the same as the ground level. If your rose is planted above or below ground level, it may have a difficult time growing properly. Planting bare-root roses is the same process, except that you must gently pack the dirt around the roots. If you have a grafted rose, you need to make sure that the graft union is a little bit below ground level.
Purchasing organic rose fertilizer will insure that you have fertilizer to add during the growing season, if you don’t already have it on hand at home.
Mulch Mulching will help your roses after they are planted. Mulching is the practice of adding plant material, such as leaves, dead grass, or shredded bark on top of the soil. The plant material will eventually be broken down and pulled into the soil by soil denizens. It will become humus. Mulching also helps to retain moisture in the soil. In a natural environment, leaves fall to the ground and stay there. They act as mulch
Pruning You will not need to prune your roses until next season. It is best to prune just before the early spring growth appears, which is March in most areas. You can check with your local nurseries to find out what is the best time in your area. If you are unfamiliar with pruning, it is best to watch a demonstration. There are many articles and books that explain how to prune, but a demonstration is worth ten thousand words. Do-it-yourself television shows often give demonstrations. Nurseries and rose clubs also sometimes give demonstrations. Once you see a demonstration, you will feel much more comfortable with the idea of pruning.
Deadheading If you have planted repeat-flowering roses, your rose bushes will bloom more bountifully when you remove the spent blooms. This is called deadheading.
Tips Hybrid tea roses or grand floras are best for classical long stem roses, but floribundas, shrubs, or climbing roses are a better choice if you want your rose garden to bloom continually. Climbers on a trellis can create an amazing display of color or hide an unsightly shed. Roses need well-drained soil. If you have clay, or other soil that doesn’t drain, you may have to create a drain line or plant your roses in a raised bed. Don’t forget mulch. Mulching around your roses and other plants will make them very happy and reduce pathogen problems. Purchase hardy roses that are resistant to infestation. These are often the older varieties. You will also find that sturdy varieties vary from region to region. Check with local organic gardening associations to find out what works best in your specific area and under your specific conditions. Instead of planting your roses in even rows, you can stagger them. By staggering them, you get more roses in a small space without crowing them.
Many people are now getting into growing all things organic. Farmers are doing it with produce and meats, so it is natural that you might want to grow your roses that way also. Many people have problems using the pesticides and insecticides that go along with growing roses and keeping them healthy. Well, now you can use more natural methods of growing your roses. I will show you how in step by step detail.
1. Each bush that you want to plant will need to have a foot of space all around it so that the flowers can get the proper amount of circulation. It also helps to prevent leaf diseases for your roses.
2. You will want to purchase organic roses. You will want to buy roses that have a sturdy green stem and no blemishes on them. Bare root roses are best for this.
3. Along with roses that have green stems, you will need to look for stems that have evenly spaced leaves that are close together.
4. You will need to use well drained soil so that you can promote the healthy growth that will give the flower all of the water and nutrients that it needs from the root to the flower’s head.
5. Fix the soil so that you can build organically. You should use a raised bead if drainage is a constant problem. Ask your local garden center rep about how best to fix your soil to be organically correct.
6. Soak your bare root roses in a large container of composte tea for many hours before you plant them.
7. You must mound up enough good organic sol that is mixed with an equal amount of composte in the middle so that you can spread the roots out and down from where they meet at the trunk.
8. Now, plant the rose at the point where the stem breaks into the root so that it is at soil level, or approximately 1 inch below the top level if you live in an area that is prone to hard winters. 9. You have to check your bare root roses first. If your roots grow out in a tight circle, you have to cut a straight slice down each of its four sides. A knife is good for this. Then you will dig a hole that is 2 inches deeper than the container and at least twice as wide.
10. Mix your organic soil garden soil with an equal amount of composted and use your hands to gently spread the roots into the soil mix.
11. You have to mulch to help you prevent your roses from being exposed to weeds, and water stress complications. It will also ensure that your roses remain at their lowest possible maintenance level.
12. You must feed your roses organically also. Fertilize with organic fertilizer and maintain a regular watering schedule.
13. Water your organic roses deep at the planting, and then once every week after that during growing season so that you can promote deep roots. Watering in the early morning is best.
14. You must cultivate the top inch of your soil around each of your roses and fertilize on a monthly basis with a balanced organic fertilizer. You will need a good granular type of fertilizer that you can work into the soil. Either that, or you can use a fish emulsion or seaweed based product that you can mix with water because it has all of the necessary nutrients that a healthy flower needs. Check the ingredients listed on the labels to ensure that they have nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron and calcium.
15. To help protect your bed against the various types of pests and insects that can plague your roses, put sticky yellow bars every ten feet to catch them.
16. You may use an organic pesticide if the problem is bad.
17. If your pest problem is severe enough, you may use insecticidal soap to spray over your roses.
Now you have all of the necessary knowledge that you need to grow your own bed of earth friendly roses. Your flowers will be just as beautiful as those that are not grown organically, and will likely have the healthiest life span that a rose can get. Organic roses have some of the best color and “immune systems” that a rose can have. The fragrance of them can’t be beaten.
CALENDAR OF ROSE CARE
Fertilize with blood and bone, up to 1 kg per bush, depending on soil fertility, mixed with 100g of sulphate of potash per bush, potash improves disease resistance (don’t use muriate of potash, it has a harmful effect on beneficial soil organisms). Apply a good mulch of well-rotted compost and lucerne hay.
Spray new foliage in the afternoon with seaweed, repeat every 10-14 days
Fertilize repeat bloomers in mid to late summer
Fertilize again with 100g of sulphate of potash per bush
In the subtropics, hybrid tea and floribundas should be hard-pruned in February, this gives the plant a rest and stops flowering in the heat and humidity of the wet season, when flowers will just collapse anyway. Remove all rose pruning’s as they can harbor disease. The plant should be ready to flower again by late March, when it is cooler.
Roses often flower well from March to July, remove spent blooms on a regular basis.
Fertilize again with blood and bone and 100g of sulphate of potash per bush WINTER
In cool areas this is the main period for pruning.
Trim bushes lightly in August, before the cold westerly winds start blowing.
Spray with lime sulphur or Bordeaux mixture to kill fungal spores.
Dust the soil with lime to provide calcium.