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603 Views 9 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  chicagomom
Hi gardners,
I inherited a beautiful garden when we bought this house. There are about 5 rose bushes (by themselves and in mulch) lining the side of the house. When we were closing on the house, the previous owner mentioned something about keeping them well fertilized to avoid some sort of rot that turns their leaves brown. There was so much going on that I didn't really pay attention. So my questions are
1. When do you fertilize roses?
2. What is the best fertilizer to use?
3. How do I apply that fertilizer (do I need special equipment?) and how much to use?
If you can't tell by my post, I am totally new to gardening (though I think it's really nifty and I can't wait to really get into it!!!)
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sorry I can't really offer any specific help, especially since my own rose bushes are really looking pitiful this year! In years past I have used Miracle Gro rose food once a week, never anything else, and they have always done fine. We had a particularly windy spring and they're not recovering too well yet.

Years ago, at my old house in MA I had some real old rose bushes that my great grandmother had planted, and all we did was water them every day with the used dish water. And they were beautiful! Maybe I should go back to that.
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I also do the miricle grow once a week.

Think roses alos like banana peels.

They also like clay soil.
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I use a systemic rose fertilizer every 6 weeks. It comes in granules and you sprinkle it on the ground and it slowly waters in.

I'm not sure where you are geographically, but if you are where it freezes you have to cover them in the winter with straw or should look for a rose book specific to your area.

Deadheadding will keep the blooms coming. You don't want them wasting energy making seeds...Invest in a good pair of pruning shears and leather gloves. You don't want to be a pincushion, lol.

Oh, I could talk about roses forever! I have 19 bushes here, and love love love trimming them and making them all bloom at the same time.

Good luck!
I am posting from sunny south carolina
so the winters should not be a problem.

ummm...what is deadheadding?

someone else mentioned banan peels. banana peels and eggshells. but i wasn't sure if I was just supposed to cut them up and lay them right on top of the ground or what????
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I came across this article when I was looking for information about some wild roses that I just transplanted in my yard. I thought that you might find it useful, so here it is

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I love roses! I don't use anything like Miracle Grow or whatnot. We try to go organic when we can. Sometimes I use manure tea, but mostly my roses do OK without anything. I've heard that giving them alot of nitrogen makes them more suceptible to fungal yuckies. When they do look fungal, I squirt them with a weak solution of plain yogurt and water. I make sure when I cut the flowers (either to deadhead or for boquets) that I cut just above a group of five leaves. Also, I prune at the end of winter, before I get alot of new growth. I cut down any canes less than a pencil's width, any canes growing into the center of the bush, and any canes that cross another. You want to prune in a way that lets light and air into the center of the bush. You can cut back a rosebush pretty severely if you want to check it's size. I've cut them down to about six inches from the ground without ill effects. Generally I think that more severe cutting leads to fewer roses...but the roses you get will be bigger and more spectacular. Light pruning will lead to more roses that are smaller. Sometimes we have aphids, and I squirt them off with the hose. Enjoy your lovelies!
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Thanks for all the info ladies!
I am printing it out so I can easily reference it.
I love my rose bushes. I am just trying to make sure I don't kill them
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I would add, Don't be intimidated. Roses are pretty rugged plants.

They don't *need* to be fertilized if the soil they're in is good, but every spring & fall you can just apply a 3" layer of compost & water it well. Keep them mulched deeply to avoid weeds & high water bills. Straw, hay, leaves, beauty bark, it's all good. Unless you have slug problems, bury melon rinds & banana peels under the mulch. Watering with reclaimed, soapy/foody kitchen water is great too. Real soap breaks down into great food plants -- the American colonists fed their gardens with wash water containing lard soap.

To avoid disease the best thing you can do is have healthy plants. The more sun, the better, and they like good air circulation, so don't cram a bunch of other plants real close to them. They *can* be moved if their position seems to be challenging them. Ask at a nursery that specializes in roses (not a hardware store garden center).

I've never tried the yogurt solution but it makes sense. I've used a solution of 1 tsp baking soda & a few drops liquid Dr Bronner's soap per quart of water. This has "brought back" roses that were so covered in black spot they'd almost completely defoliated. It supposedly prevents fungal spores from germinating, so also spray the ground around the roses. Use it up to once a week. I find after the plants are fully leafed out in spring I don't need to use it anymore (because the spores never got a chance to establish themselves). If buggies start chewing on my roses I spray them liberally with peppermint or lavender Dr Bronner's in water. A strong garlic tea might work, or a cayenne tea, depending on what the bugs are. (The garlic smell goes away in a day or so). And, you know, don't panic over a few fungal spots or one caterpillar.

Pruning sounds complicated, but give yourself a few years and a book with pictures and you'll achieve a balance. If your roses are short and have fewer, very large, blooms than you'd like, prune less severely next year. If they're tall and floppy with blooms only at the tips, prune more severely next year. Either way you won't kill them. If you have antique roses, that bloom only once in the spring, prune them right after blooming or not at all that year; if you wait till late winter, you won't get any roses in spring.

Rodale Press has very good books on organic gardening & I'm sure they have one or more about roses.
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Thanks for the info about black spot, girlndocs. I have a terrible time with it here in Chicago. Some varieties are very susceptible, some never get it. I hate to use anything chemical-y with young ones around. Gotta love that Dr. Bronner's!

A rose book I love is Growing Roses in Cold Climates, written by two master rosarians who live and grow in Minnesota. They have lots of info on winter-hardy roses (which ones will survive without protection, how to protect those that need it), as well as a thorough fertilizing plan that I follow which results in absolutely show-stopping displays of roses on my shrub and climbing roses. The book gives organic and non-organic versions of the fertilizing plan, including when to start and stop (so roses have a chance to get ready for winter).

My basic plan is alternating 20-20-20 in water one week, then fish emulsion in water the next week. Most books I have read love the old-dishwater thing, and most say water only in the morning and don't get leaves wet, to avoid black spot and other fungal diseases.

Edited to add: I'm abandoning my fish emulsion treatment (high in nitrogen), and trying the Dr. Bronners n baking soda. How often did you have to do this before you saw an improvement?
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