Well, this is the last section of this article. This is also the last
post I will make to this newsgroup. C'est la vive... y'all can go back
to criticizing, complaining, losing posts, flaming each other, or
discussing the topic of the day. What is it today, wolves? *Shrug*
For the other 95% of you that really do grow roses, good luck. I hope this
infomation helps. But PLEASE no more emails asking for earlier parts,
missing posts, or lost posts. Please refer to the newsgroup archives for
getting them. Or ask the group and others can re-post or forward copies.
Or ask your network administrator to fix whatever it is that is broken.
Or join the Hololulu rose Society and read their newsletter where these
articles appear in print.
And a final word of advice for anyone thinking about posting articles
of this type to this newsgroup in future? Don't...
Opinions vary, as will your rose blooms...
(c) 1998 by Scott G.***inson, All rights reserved.
Permission given to the Honolulu Rose Society to reprint by
the author, 3/6/98.
Rose Fertilizers Defined, part IV
OK, so you are saying to yourself, "You have told me what fertilizers are,
and what types exist, and you have hinted at which ones you use, but
which ones do I use and when?" And maybe you are also thinking. "What
difference does it make if I use dry or wet, organic or inorganic? And
how will these affect my roses?" Several more topics are detailed here
in this last segment that may help to explain all of this.
Liquid/water soluble fertilizers:
One feature of water soluble fertilizers is that you can use folier feeding.
This is a little known secret that can improve poor looking plants of any kind,
not just roses. Leaf yellowing chlorosis (caused by either low iron or
nitrogen) can be fixed within *hours* of folier feeding, Why? Fertilizers can
be applied to the leaves of plants, and directly absorbed by them. This was
a real breakthrough in the development of Miracle-Gro plant food. Most
fertilizers are taken up by plant roots, but it was not commonly known that
plants can also absorb certain types of fertilizers directly through their
leaves. See the earlier section about nitorgen compounds; some forms of
nitrogen can and cannot be used and absorbed directly by plants. However,
water soluble fertilizers can be and are absorbed by leaves and the main and
micronutrients put emmediately to use. A benefit to this form of feeding is
that fertilized water that drips off the leaves and into the soil will be
extracted but the roots as well. Sort of a one-two boost!
The next benefit of soluble fertilizers is that they travel well in soil and
are not bound to it. They tend to have chelated trace elements which are
absorbed better by plant roots. They also work fast in their application and
the nitrogen can be leached with plain water so nitrogen can be controlled
more effectively. This is important if you want to control blooming by
feeding (more on that below).
Slow release fertilizers:
Typical of these and most common is called Osmocote[TM]. Osmocote is available
in various formulas, including: 18-6-12, 14-14-14, and 20-10-5. Osmocote
comes in small round pellets in dry form, and the idea is to add them to the
soil around your plants and every time you water they dissolve to feed your
plants. They are good background fertilizers for feeding over a long period
of time. They are very expensive though, and I do not use them on roses as
I like to control nitrogen to force growth and blooming cycles. But they are
great for cymbidium orchids and other plants that have a long continuous
growing periods of about 6 months or more. The big advantage to Osmocote
is that you feed once and forget about fertilizer for the reast of the year.
Or apply it in spring and feed with water soluble fertilizers in the early
part of the year when growth rate is highest, and then forget about feeding
until the Osmocote has dissolved.
Dry fertilizers and pellets:
Many forms are available, in general "rose food" formulas and also combined
with systemic pesiticides. Some are element-specific like superphosphate,
(0-45-0), or potassium sulfate (0-0-50). Others are slow-release like
Osmocote, and some others dissolve instantly. There are so many formulas
that I will not discuss these in detail, as their action and application is
so varied. With these and with ANY FERTILIZER, read the label and follow
the directions for their application and use.
Organic vs. inorganic fertilizers:
This is a touchy subject with many people, and I use a combination of both
for many reasons. Cost is one factor, as is quality. Organic fertilizers are
almost always lower in concentration than the inorganic formulas. They are
also almost always more expensive, and some are really smelly and messy. As
stated before, UC Davis and other studies have shown time and time again
that fertilizer elements are taken up by plants in the same way regardless
of the source of the material and regardless of the cost at the store.
Water soluble types like Miracle-Gro and sulfate of ammonia are inorganic
fertilizers derived from compounds made using petroleum products. Fish
emulsion and steer manure are by-products of industrial fishing and agriculture.
Fish emultion (5-1-1) is pretty low in elemental components, and is messy.
It also stinks and I have seen gardens dug up by dogs, cats, rats and other
vermin when fish emulsion is used. On the other hand I have also seen yards
destroyed by improper application of inorganic fertilizers like urea (actually
a hybrid of organic chemicals refined in an inorganic process). So the
application must be done with care using either type.
Using nitrogen to help the bloom cycle:
Nitrogen and starches (sugars) exist in varous levels in plants and affect the
time and rate that they bloom. Most rose types (hybrid teas-HT, floribundas-
FB and grandifloras-GF, as well as polyanthas and many old type of roses)
bloom on new wood. This is plant material that grew *this year*. This is
opposed to climbing roses that bloom on previous years' growth, or camelias
that bloom on last year's growth. This is key to establishing when to prune
roses and when to feed. Feeding can force more growth at the right time to
get bigger, more, and better blooms for your rose bushes. Why?
After you hard prune your roses in late winter, they will begin to grow when
things warm up. Here in California that is usually within a few weeks as it
does not freeze here much. The roses grow for about 6 weeks and then set
their first spring buds. After that they may or may not bloom depending on
type. But the modern roses (HT, FB, and GF) they will grow for a period of
time just after the first bloom and then bloom again. This cycle continues
through the summer and into fall. In San Diego I usually got my last bloom
between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Multi-cycle rose blooming is a genetic
trait that was introduced by crossing early rose types into what we now
call modern types. This genetic multi-grow and -bloom cycle can be amplified
by applying fertilizer at the right time, and the fertilizers will be put to
better use by the roses that way.
So what the trick is is to feed heavilly for a few weeks after hard pruning
and first growth has begun in the spring. Then stop feeding the nitrogen,
as the plant will be setting buds and slowing in growth. Let them bloom
without feeding them, as they do not need high nitrogen to bloom (potassium
and phosphates are used more at this time). Once the first blooms begin to
shatter, then feed them with high nirtogen again for a few weeks. They will
grow more, dining on the nitrogen, and then set blooms again. At this time
stop the feeding again. This can be repeted throughout the summer, and I
usually get 5 to 6 blooming cycles per year. Roses bloom at different rates
depending on type and variety, so I stagger the feeding by plant. I usually
dead-head and feed at the same time. Pretty easy to keep track of this, as
they will either be blooming or growing. Some roses are almost always in
bloom (like French Lace) but they will vary from *full* bloom to partial
So what does the author use for fertilizing roses?:
OK, I guess we are at the end of the fertilizer line here. But before I
mention what I use on roses I must state a disclaimer: I do not recommend
that you use any fertilizer product or pesticide. I do not have a Shedule Q
license to dispense pesticides and I am not an expert in fertilizers. This
is what I use for personal reasons, and some observations that I have made
in using fertilizers over the years. OK? No lawyers please...
Basically I have developed a hodge-podge fertilizer scheme that is affected
from year to year by prices, experimentation, and weather. But I have found
that combining fertilizer types works best for soil composition and rose
growth and bloom. After hard pruning in winter I dig in whatever I have
left over from last year (ie., ***, cottonseed, and bone meal bags left out
in the Garden shed). I also buy a bag of gypsum, a box of Epsom salts, and
a bag or two of steer manure and dig them in around the base of the rose
bushes. I also dig in fireplace ashes that I keep in a box in the garage.
After about a month to 6 weeks I add Ortho systemic rose food and pesticide
around the base of the roses for double-action feeding and disease control.
I do not wait for the critters to appear, as once an infection is established
it is harder to get under control. "If you plant roses they will come."
Everything alive likes roses for some reason or other. They taste good,
smell good, and look good to a host of creatures large and small.
I use watering basins for water conservation, and I build them after the rains
taper off here in the spring. I also start to feed them water soluble fertilizer
at this time for a week ...
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