A Guide to Earth-Friendly Rose Gardening
After choosing the right rose varieties & enriching the soil, use these organic gardening tips to keep roses healthy so they can resist insects and disease.
Some roses deserve the reputation of being fussy and difficult. However, choosing disease-resistant roses and preparing the soil so it’s rich with compost and nutrients are two essential first steps in creating an easy organic rose garden.
Once this is done, here are the next steps to take to get a garden full of gorgeous roses:
Give Roses Plenty of Water
Like most plants, roses do best with regular, deep watering as opposed to a light sprinkling every day. Depending on the size of the bush, roses need about 3-5 gallons of water per week (more frequently if it’s very hot or dry).
Roses should be watered in the early morning or late afternoon, and the leaves should have time to dry out before it gets dark at night, so as not to encourage fungus or mildew growth.
As much as possible, water the roots and try to keep the leaves dry. A drip irrigation system makes this extremely easy.
Enhance Air Circulation with Spacing and Pruning
Roses should be planted 2-3 feet apart to allow for adequate air circulation between plants. Also, when pruning roses, remove canes that intersect or bump up against each other, in order to allow for air flow within the bush.
Dead-Heading for Continuous Bloom
Cutting off spent blooms will encourage new flowers to form. Look for the first outward-facing bulge on the stem, and cut the rose back ¼” above that point. Cut at a 45-degree angle with a sharp shears to minimize the open surface area exposed.
Companion Plants for Roses
Companion plants soften or hide the less attractive parts of a rosebush (the base and the stems), accentuate the blooms, serve as living mulch to help retain water and discourage weeds, and attract hummingbirds and beneficial insects like ladybugs, bees, green lacewings and butterflies.
Adding companion plants to a rose garden will make it less formal, so it will have more of a cottage garden feel to it.
Some excellent companion plants for roses include:
Alchemilla (lady’s mantle)
Rosemary & thyme (herbs that attract beneficial insects)
Control Disease and Insects Without Spraying Harsh Chemicals
While not the quick fix that poisonous sprays and petrochemicals are for ridding a rose of destructive insects and disease, the gardener can relax about using these rose treatments knowing that they won’t harm pets, kids, wildlife or beneficial insects.
Cornell spray – a baking soda solution (1 gallon of water to 4 tsp. of baking soda & 2 Tbsp. horticultural oil) sprayed on roses every few weeks will help to control black spot. Water the bush first, and spray early in the season before the black spot fungus strikes.
Mix 2 Tbsp. white or cider vinegar with a gallon of water, and spray on roses in the morning, making sure to soak the rose bush completely. Do this once a week, starting in the spring and continue until the temperature reaches 80 degrees.
Combine 1-1/2 Tbsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. vegetable oil, 1-1/2 Tbsp. Safer’s insecticidal soap or castile soap, and 1 gallon of water. Stir in 1 Tbsp. of vinegar (the mixture will foam). Soak rosebushes weekly in the mornings with a non-clogging sprayer until the weather warms.
Organic Roses are Worth the Effort
A lush rose garden, heavy with luxurious fragrance and buzzing with bees and ladybugs, is a pleasure that’s worth all the time & effort that goes into growing Earth-friendly roses. And in the long run, it’s far easier than non-organic rose gardening because it works with nature, not against it.