Our 68th Year serving Western Pennsylvania
May, the lovely month of May, perhaps only June is more glorious in the garden. So, what should we be doing to make those June blooms the best they can be is the question we need to discuss. Let us go step by step and start with pruning. As we have mentioned on many occasions it is never too late to prune—only too early. We are now well past the starting time for pruning so if you have not done so, this should be your first May task. There are many video demonstrations on YouTube as to how to prune and we have talked about this in detail in the March newsletter.
After you have finished pruning it is time to feed your bushes. A good balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) will function well if you are sticking with the basics. A balanced organic product would be most rosarians first choice ( Rose-tone is a good one but there are many others). Organics have the advantage in that they also contain most of the trace elements roses need for good photosynthesis. During the growing season the basic fertilizer application should be repeated on a monthly basis. How much you apply depends on the brand you are using. Basic 10-10-10 is usually applied at the rate of a cup per bush evenly applied around the base of the plant—cut this in half for miniature bushes. Check the instructions on the package for more detail. At this point in our discussion it would be a good idea to mention that if your roses did not do well last season and you cannot figure out why, now is the time to get your soil tested, even before doing your first fertilizer application. The Allegheny County Penn State Agricultural Extension will give you all the details as to how to get the testing done. Call them or go to the website for more information. You can then tailor your fertilization program to achieve the recommendations in you soil test report.
One more major project is needed to launch you into the growing season, three inches of mulch. A good shredded hardwood bark is the best choice. Mulching will help retain moisture in the garden, suppress weed proliferation and help keep the roots cooler in the coming heat waves of July and August.
Water your garden. If you do not have one, get a rain gauge. Roses need about one inch of water per week.
Lastly, keep a watch out for fungal and insect attacks. A good preventive measure you can take right now (and till the temperatures start to climb to 90°F) is a spray application of light horticultural oil. This will smother many insects and fungal spores that may be hiding under you bushes leaves. One last tip, roses need lots of water, recommended one inch per week. If your rain gauge says you did not get that much naturally you will need to water.
To download PDF copy roses that have passed the Columbus Park of Roses "Earth-Kind" northern trials follow the link to the right