(you can click on the photos to enlarge)
Today is the beginning of spring, even though it does not feel like that. The weather is down right nasty here in Southern California in the moment. It was gray and gloomy all day long and now it is raining out of buckets. But usually this kind of weather subsides quickly and the sky will open up to a clear blue color and wonderful sunshine, again. Besides this the rain will make the roses bloom even more prolific in the spring flush, so I am not really complaining.
I intended to finish fertilizing my roses growing in the ground this weekend (there are only three more left to feed in the backyard), but due to work and the weather I had to postpone that. Even though I am not done fertilizing yet, I still would like to post about how I fertilize and mulch my roses and was thinking I show it to you step by step.
The rose I used in this post as an "example rose" is Pope John Paul II, a gorgeous white Hybrid Tea rose with great fragrance. The rose is pruned and looked like this on February, 27th this year. As you can see it is just beginning to leave out and this is a good time to lay down fertilizer.
Starting out with weeding the rose is important, because otherwise if you put down the fertilizer you not only feed the rose, but also the weeds, which will grow even more happily. It is a little hard to see (the light conditions were less than ideal on the day when I took the pictures), but on the photo above the rose is weeded and the soil is loosened up, which provide better airflow to the roots.
The last years I mostly used E.B. Stone Organics Rose and Flower Food (5-6-3). I am sticking to that brand, because it has proven to work well in my garden. But I also have to admit, that the main reason I am using this one is, it is simply the only organic rose fertilizer my local nursery is carrying. I bought also another organic fertilizer called Bio Start (3-4-3) produced by Growmore, which was recommended and sold by the San Diego Rose Society, last year for the first time. I could not notice any difference in the effects both fertilizer had on my roses. In addition to the fertilizer am giving my roses also E. B. Stone Organics Alfalfa Meal.
So the next step is to spread the organic rose fertilizer (the gray-brown stuff you can see around the base of the rose) I usually give each rose 1 1/2 cups. But that number can go up to 4 cups depending on the size of the rose and if the rose is having root competition of any kind, because in that case the roots of the other plant (mostly large palm trees in my yard) are eating the fertilizer, too.
After that I put down the alfalfa meal (has a green, yellow mustard color, which is now almost completely covering the rose fertilizer). Usually I use 2 cups per rose, but again I increase it up to 4 cups depending on the size of the rose and if there is any root competition from other plants. Alfalfa meal is thought to be promoting basal growth in roses. Since it is so important that the roses renew themselves I think, it is worth to make the extra effort and feed them with alfalfa meal. Of course I don't have any scientific prove, but I seem to observe more basal can break three to four weeks after giving the roses the alfalfa meal.
Then I scratch the rose fertilizer and the alfalfa meal into the soil. Organic fertilizers need to be broken down by microorganisms and that only can happen if the fertilizers are in good contact with the soil.
Now it is time to put down a decent layer of compost. Here in San Diego it is recommended that the compost or mulch layer should be 3 - 4 inches thick ideally. The main reason is to cool the soil when the heat arrives and to conserve water, but another reason to spread compost generously is that is also breaks down and feeds the roses long term. It also improves the quality of the soil in general over the time. The drawback for me is, that since I do not have my own compost heap, I need to buy the compost and that can get quite pricey. To get a layer of 2 - 3 inches down around each rose it needs a whole bag of compost like you can see on the photo on top. My wish is to start my own compost bin to at least produce some compost by myself for the garden.
The photo above you can shows that half of the ground underneath the rose is covered with compost already. What a difference it makes visually. I think, a garden that is mulched with compost looks so much nicer. To me it is also amazing how much our poor soil has improved already after only three years of gardening, in the areas where I mulched with compost diligently.
Here (photo above) the whole ground around the rose is mulched with compost now. At this point the compost is also watered down well. It helps to get the fertilizer, which is underneath the compost, quicker into the deeper layers of soil and therefore closer to the roots of the rose. Now you can just sit back, wait, and watch the roses grow.
The image above is taken just two days ago. You can see roughly three weeks after fertilizing how much growth the rose has gained. The new leaves are strong, healthy and grow with vigor.
For me there is no question that my roses in the poor soil that we are having benefit from fertilizing a lot. Roses are also known to be heavy feeders and that is no surprise considering the amount of blooms that they are producing, which is another argument to feed your roses properly. Ideally I repeat fertilizing my roses after the spring flush is over, but I do not always get around to do it.
Happy spring to all of you, my dear readers!
See you in the garden!