October in the Rose garden
By Bill Kozemchak
You should continue watering if there is not sufficient rainfall. Hopefully we will get more rainfall this fall than we did this very dry summer. Watering is the most important thing you can do for your roses. Having healthy well hydrated roses in the fall will help them through the winter. The fall is also a good time to mulch. This will also give some limited winter protection to the roses. Dick Nipe has applied mushroom compost in the fall as winter protection and a very good soil amendment the following spring. This would be very good for a tired bed, which does not have many organics left in it. I dug a new bed a few falls back and added a large amount of mushroom compost. The roses responded beautifully the next year. It is still probably the best producing bed in my yard.
If you are planning on a new rosebed next year, this is a good time to get it ready. Digging and amending the soil now will make planting easy next spring when your new roses arrive. It will also give the ingredients time to blend and the bed time to settle. My yard has about an inch of topsoil and lots of clay below it. New beds are amended with lots of sand, which I have found tends to really loosen up the clay. In older beds sand wasn’t added and once the organics which were added broke down, the soil tended to return to its former state. Gypsum also helps break up the fine particles of clay; plenty of this is also added. Peat moss, compost, leaves, mushroom compost or other organic matter is also added in large quantities.
Most rosarians have stopped their spray program as the weather cools. I usually try to continue it until the end of the month if it is warm. The less disease in the garden now should mean less in the spring. I also like to cut roses with their beautiful fall colors to give away to friends and family, preferably with clean foliage.
It’s a good time to check the pH in your garden. You can buy a pH tester for as little as $15 or as much as $75. A soil test form Rutgers in N.J. or Penn State in PA is another way to check it. The soil test will also tell you about what is lacking or surplus in soil. The pH for roses should be between 6.0 and 6.5. If this is low, which is usually the case in this part of the country, you need to add lime to the soil to bring the number up. This takes a while so the fall is a good time to do it. Fertilizing heavily usually also pushes the number down. The first time I checked mine, some parts of the garden were down to 4.0, which explained way they weren’t doing so well. Too low or too high pH makes certain minerals unavailable to the roses; they can’t take them up through the roots.
New rose catalogs have been arriving and web sites have been updated with next year’s varieties. For best selection, order early. My two favorite suppliers of large roses are Palatine Roses www.palatineroses.com and Pickering Nurseries www.pickeringnurseries.com. Both are located in Canada and sell roses grafted on multiflora rootstock. This is the best rootstock for our area. I have been completely satisfied with the quality and service from both suppliers. I have also ordered own-root roses, but you’ll want to receive them in early spring so they will not have to try to survive our winter. Many nurseries are having sales this time of year. This is an inexpensive way to increase the size of your garden. While some of these roses may not look great in their pots, with a little TLC, you can make them look great next year.
October is a good time to make a garden map. When you forget what went where, or lose the tags, the map will still know. It doesn’t need to be fancy or neat; it’s just a record of what is where. Mine has lots of white out, different color inks and dirt all over it, but I wouldn’t want to be without it. Do it now before winter comes and the wind, snow and critters remove your tags or markers for you.
While you are creating or editing your map, it is a good time to evaluate your roses. You may want to consider replacing underperforming roses in your garden. Roses that don’t bloom enough, aren’t vigorous or are too disease prone may be candidates. A poorly performing rose takes as much or more care than a good one. If you are not sure what a good replacement rose would be ask other society members or a consulting rosarian in your society. Even if a rose is highly rated, it may not perform well in our area. Diane Wilkerson is the Rose in Review editor for Penn-Jersey. She puts out an excellent compilation of rose comments from growers in our area. This will be in the Rose Vine later this year. Horizon Roses is a publication in which growers from rate the newer exhibition roses across the country. Nothing is sugar coated and most comments are very blunt, not like reading a rose catalog. Richard Anthony, Ken Borrmann, Stacey Catron, Wayne Geltz, Tom Mayhew, Donna & Glen Smith, Mike Wrightstone and I are regular Penn-Jersey contributors. The new electronic edition is available for $7.99; the profits are donated to ARS. Ordering details are listed on www.RosesShow.com.
Bill Kozemchak, (PinkyKoz[at]aol[dot]com) ‘October in the Rose Garden’, October 2013. The Rose, Bill Kozemchak, ed. Philadelphia Rose Society.
To download a digital version of this article click here.