Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
July, 2011
Regional Report

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Lovely roses and beneficial bees make a terrific combination in my garden!

Summer Rose Care

We are enjoying our garden to the fullest now that summer is in full swing. Our roses are lovely, and I harvest bouquets to take indoors as often as I can. Some shrubs require minimal care this time of year, but roses need a regular maintenance program for peak performance all summer long.

I've done a little research into the subject and found that most references recommend fertilizing roses once a month, beginning May 1. Since we have such a short growing season here in the Pacific Northwest, I prefer to use a more intensive program. To ensure our plants are growing vigorously so they can produce lots of blooms, I apply fertilizer more frequently than suggested in the reference books.

My Fertilizer Regime
I make my initial fertilizer application on May first. Two weeks after the initial May 1 application, I fertilize again, using a water-soluble fertilizer (20-20-20). Each plant is given about one gallon of this solution every two weeks throughout the summer. Once every 4-6 weeks we add an organic fertilizer consisting of equal amounts of alfalfa, cottonseed, bone and fishmeal. Two cups of this mixture is worked into the soil around the perimeter of each plant and watered in well. Because roses have lots of feeder roots just below the soil surface it's important to cultivate with care.

This fertilization schedule is continued through the month of August. Around the first of September we give a final application of 0-20-20 to help harden off the plants and prepare them for winter.

Mulching to Keep Roots Cool
I use lots of mulch in my garden, especially around my roses. It provides a blanket of protection from hot summer sun, slows water evaporation, and discourages weeds. And if weeds do sprout, they're easier pull because the roots tend to grow in the loose mulch material rather than anchoring themselves in the soil. We use organic mulch because it contributes valuable nutrients to the soil as it breaks down over the season.

Regular Watering
Roses grow best with regular drinks of water, preferring long, refreshing drinks to short skimpy ones. Although feeder roots develop no matter how they are watered, the long support roots develop only if forced to search deep in the soil for water. We try to give our roses two inches of water per week, applying water to the soil, not the foliage, because overhead watering can lead to disease problems.

The most common rose diseases in our climate are rust, powdery mildew, and black spot. Powdery mildew is encouraged by warm days and cool nights. It can also occur in overcrowded plantings and in damp, shady gardens where air circulation is poor. The first symptoms are white, powdery patches on foliage and stems. Leaves hold their color, but can begin to crinkle as the disease progresses.

Rust disease first appears as yellow or orange colored pustules on the undersides of leaves. As the disease progresses, leaf undersides become covered with masses of rust-colored spores and the upper leaf surfaces show yellow spotting.

Black spots on green foliage are the first sign of black spot disease. Yellow-fringed rings develop around the black spots. As the disease progresses, whole leaves turn yellow.

We avoid using chemical sprays in our garden, preferring to grow our roses organically. We've chosen disease resistant varieties, and are careful to remove any foliage that shows symptoms of disease to keep problems from spreading. With this said, I know many gardeners who feel routine spraying is necessary for healthy, vigorous plants. If you're a member of this gardening group, it's very important that you read the label and apply according to label directions. Don't assume that if a little bit is good, a heavier dose is better. Use only products labeled for use on roses, and consider trying some of the milder soap-based fungicides first.

Many insects attack roses, but the most troublesome in my garden are aphids. Aphids are soft-bodied sucking insects and they appear in great numbers on tender rose growth. I control aphids by rubbing them off between my thumb and forefinger or by hosing them off with a strong stream of water. You can use two tablespoons of liquid Ivory dish soap dissolved in one gallon of water to control aphids, or apply insecticidal soap or another commercial insecticide labeled for roses.

In my garden, the most serious rose pruning is done in March, just as buds begin to swell on the canes. During the summer you can lightly prune as you remove spent flowers by cutting the flowering shoot down to the first leaf with five leaflets. This will help your roses maintain a neater appearance, produce sturdier stems, and rebloom a little sooner.

Growing hybrid tea and floribunda roses can be quite labor-intensive, but there isn't a plant in my garden that compares to these beauties. I think the effort is worthwhile!

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