A Plan For A Healthy Rose Bed
The key to fertilizing roses is a rich, well fed soil and plenty of water. Unfortunately, few soils are naturally well fertilized, and few of us really know what roses require. Some of us go for the box of “Rose Food” hoping it’s the magic multi-vitamin, but the chances are we don’t even read the box to find out what’s really in it. Fertilizing Roses needs some research help.
Plants need certain minerals in order to grow properly. In nature, they usually get these from decaying matter in the soil. However, in your garden, in the process of trimming and cleanup, some of these nutrients may not be present in the soil and can cause your plants to become deficient. You need to find a way to restore the balance.
Actually, fertilizer is a variety of elements, suspended in water which is made available to enter the plant through roots or leaves. The cycle is simple. Leaves and insects eating plants fall to the soil, rot and provide food for the plant again.
Humans however interrupt this cycle because little is allowed to go back into the soil. We deadhead, remove weeds and clean up dropped leaves, so our soil is not replenished naturally. The rose grower has to return these natural elements to the soil. Fertilizing roses is a process of maintaining a soil balance.
The key minerals for roses include Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus(P), and Potassium(K) or potash. There are other trace elements that plants need but these are the key ones. There are two ways to get these minerals, via organic or chemical. Organic is usually a combination of compost and manure, and chemical is usually prepackaged.
To much of anything can be harmful but a lack of any one thing can show up as a deficiency. Lack of potassium, for example, shows up as leaves with brown or purple edges, yellowing leaves as a lack of iron or to much calcium.
When you look at a box of “Rose Food”, look at the label for three numbers; 6-8-6 for example. This box contains 6% nitrogen, 8% phosphorus and 6% potassium or 20% fertilizer elements and 80% filler; sand, clay, ground up farm waste, whatever!
The nitrogen gives stronger stems and greener foliage, phosphorous helps the reproduction system and therefore helps with blooms and hips, and potassium helps in root and stem development.
Often the label will also mention small quantities of other minerals in the mix.
For chemical, you can get those from a store or retailer immediately and apply them to your garden. They also tend to be fast acting since they have optimized blends of minerals ready to go. When purchasing chemical rose fertilizer, you’ll notice a label that says something like 5-10-5. This shows the % of N, P, K breakdown in the bag.
The other %, 80% in this example, is filler. The correct mix can depend on the breed. Using lawn or grass foods and nutrition additives is not recommend as they tend to have a high nitrogen content (30-10-10 or similar). Roses should have a higher phosphorus breakdown (10-20-10). Ideally, you should buy dedicated rose food as the nutrients will be balanced correctly.
Fertilizers are basically chemical or organic, and a combination of both works best for your rose bed.
Organic fertilizer is anything derived from formerly living plants or animal matter. Bone meal, green sand, kelp, fish pellets, canola pellets, alfalfa, or the various composted manures.
Organics break down slowly and enrich the soil, while chemical fertilizers, especially soluble ones, react quite quickly. Normal powder fertilizers can take up to three months to start working! Fertilizing roses needs to include a combination of materials spread over a period of time.
When to apply?
Build up the well rotted compost on the rose beds for the winter, level out in spring as a mulch and leave until the next fall as a fertilizing agent. Apply a small handful of chemical fertilizer to each plant, as the soil warms up in the spring and again in mid July after the first blooms fade. Do not apply any more. Easy Eh?
Well not exactly because there is the question of organics and the making of organic fertilizers. It is possible to have a complete and successful fertilizing program without the chemical fertilizers.