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Rose Tips by Al Karsten

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October Rose Tips

The rose growing season is coming to a close. It has been a big challenge for all of us this year!  Last winter was mild, however, in retrospect if we had had more extreme cold weather and snow perhaps we would have benefited
with better roses.

Because of the mild weather conditions last winter our roses did not die back - and more likely the roses were not cut back in the spring.  They started growing in March.  The diseases from last year were carried over and we had black spot, yellow leaves and insects much too soon.  The problems continued throughout the growing season.  

Lets take a look at what we can do in late fall.  Normally, I do not advise cutting back the roses in late fall.  I have always waited until around April 15th - the beginning of a new rose season - to cut back the old growth which would include the winter kill of the rose canes.  With our recent mild winters and very little, if any, die-back on the rose canes, I am suggesting this year to cut back at the end of the season to 3 feet up from the soil.  

In the spring new growth will start to produce nice blooms from the middle of May.  Leaving the canes tall as you start a new rose season, all the nourishment will go to the canes - and not produce a nice size bloom.

Late October until Thanksgiving weekend I recommend cutting back hybrid teas, grandiflora and floridbunda rose bushes to 3 feet up from the soil (as mentioned earlier).  You do not need to be concerned that you prune at the fifth leaflet at this time of the year.  Your objective is to remove all the tall growth from this years' growth.  I use a 3 foot yard stick as my guide to cut back the roses.  

Once the bushes have been cut back, remove all the rose leaves on the bushes and clean the rose bed of any leaves.  Start a new rose season with only new growth - and not a carry over of any disease leaves.  If you have many rose bushes, a powered blower is helpful to blow old leaves in the soil from your rose bed out to the grass.  Your lawn mower will pick up the leaves in the grass.  Do not put diseased leaves in compost.  If you only have a few rose bushes, your hand or a small rake can gather the leaves from the rose bed.  A final spraying of a fungicide and insecticide on the bare rose canes and in the soil will be beneficial to eliminate any spores left on the canes or in the soil.  The two chemicals can be combined in your sprayer, follow directions  on labels.  You are taking extra steps to avoid disease carry over to the following year.

If we have little moisture this fall or during the winter months, water one inch per bush before applying winter mulch.  Water roses in early January when it is above freezing and again in March if the soil is lacking moisture.  This is one reason we lose several roses during the winter. We believe there is enough moisture in the soil when we put our roses "to bed" for the winter.  And in recent years we have very little water added during the winter months.  The roots become dry and do not survive the winter.

The final procedure in winterizing roses for winter is adding mulch to the rose bushes.  Our objective is to protect the rose roots after a frost.  It is the freezing, thawing process that is harmful to the rose bush when you do not have mulch to protect them.  For mulch, use seasoned cow manure (not fresh), ground up leaves, soil brought in (do not dig soil from around the rose bush - you could expose the roots in winter), or other organic material.  Mulch at least 2 feet high around each rose bush.

Check to see that your sprayer has been cleaned out before storing for the season.  Store all chemicals used on the roses so they are not exposed to extreme cold weather.

Do not fertilize roses any more this season. Wait until around April 15th next year.  Water is the element needed most for rose bushes, rather than fertilizer.  

Once you have completed all the procedures recommended, it is now time to sit back, relax and review the pictures of your roses you took during the summer.  Shortly after the holidays, start planning what roses you want to order.  Do not delay your ordering as the special rose bush you want may be sold out.  

Tell yourself, "I deserve this rest!"

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