Feeding Roses and Rose Bushes
Feeding your Roses
Where care has been taken to follow the methods of preparation advocated, little if any further feeding should be necessary until the second year after planting. Where adequate moisture is available either from rainfall or irrigation I think it is often beneficial to encourage theto produce fibrous roots and establish themselves well before trying to improve their performance. Roses, particularly the hybrid tea and floribunda groups, have the reputation of being gross feeders, and it is true that in general they will respond to generous treatment. Strong growth, large, richly coloured , and handsome foliage will result in due course.
Newly planted roses sometimes suffer a setback, particularly if they are planted late and bad weather, especially cold winds and sudden drought, prevails that spring. In such cases, it is a good idea to feed the roses with a fast-acting fertilizer.
The three most important elements for satisfactory plant growth are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potash (K). Nitrogen encourages growth, especially of foliage, but if it is overused or applied too late in the season it can cause soft sappy growth, especially in wet years. Such growth is unlikely to resist disease or to ripen well and it renders some varieties prone to die back. The nitrogenous fertilizers include sulphate of ammonia, nitrate of soda, and granular forms such as nitro-chalk. This last acts quickly, is easily applied, and will not adhere to the foliage (so lessening the risk of scorched leaves); being chalky, it will not increase the acidity of the.
Fertilizers containing phosphate encourage development of a fibrous root-system, help growths to mature, and so lead to hardier plants. Winter hardiness is important if roses are grown in exposed gardens or if rainfall is high. The chief phosphate fertilizers are superphosphate, steamed bone flour, and bone meal; this last, which must be sterilized before it is used is now very expensive.
Potash is vital to roses, especially on light or chalky soils, and helps to counteract soft growth and aids ripening. The main potash fertilizers are sulphate of potash and muriate of potash; the latter is not recommended for roses. Most rosarians find general compound mixtures (containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash) convenient, particularly those specially prepared for roses. If you use mixtures, make sure their potash content is high.
A variety of ‘trace elements’ are also necessary to plant growth. These are available in various proprietary preparations. They are also present in good farmyard manure (if you are lucky enough to have a source of supply); moreover, this manure helps additionally by improving the structure of your garden soil.
Organic manures should be applied early in the season before growth starts as their nutrients are released slowly over the season. Dried blood is much quicker acting, but it is now too expensive to be used as a general fertilizer by most amateur gardeners.
When you buy compound fertilizer mixtures make sure that they have a guaranteed analysis, showing the exact proportions in which the materials are available. Bear in mind that the insoluble proportion of each material present is virtually useless : the plant is capable of absorbing only those materials that have dissolved in the soil water.
Feeding is best carried out when the soil is damp. If you have to feed your roses in dry weather, water the soil first, then apply the fertilizer and water it in. Always follow the instructions of the fertilizer manufacturer. Overfeeding is not merely wasteful: it may harm your roses.
A simple feeding programme to follow is to apply a rose compound after, pricking this lightly into the soil surface with a fork — an operation which also tidies up the bed. Another dressing may be given when the first crop is over and the dead flowers have been removed. It is important that this second dressing should have a high potash content and I have found a meal with extra potash to be very effective. If you can afford it, an autumn application of sterilized bone meal will provide a long-lasting benefit as it is slow in action.