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Organic Roses

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You would think with the plethora of advertisements for rose fertilizers and rose pest control compounds, that it would be impossible to grow roses in your garden organically. But worry not, roses are very hardy plants and given a chance to wean themselves of their dependency on chemicals, they will not only survive but will thrive and bloom with very little care.  Roses have humble roots as a wild plant in many parts of the world. They are well adapted to protect themselves from bugs, disease, and of course herbivores.... hence the thorns.  Some varieties of roses, particularly Hybrid Tea Roses, have become a little weaker due to extensive breeding work, but they will still thrive under organic cultivation.
    Soil is the most important part of any organic system. So in order for your roses to thrive we need to give a fair amount of attention to your soil. If your roses are already planted and have been cultivated with chemicals, your soil is probably devoid of beneficial microorganisms as most chemicals are toxic to microorganisms. With already established plantings, add 2-3 inches of good organic compost mixed with one pound of alfalfa meal and one pound of cottonseed meal to the surface of the soil around each rose bush. Use only good quality compost, if it has bark or sticks in it, it is not compost. Look for compost that looks like coffee grounds and smells sweet like a forest floor. There are many composts out there that do more harm than good so buy from a reputable source. The alfalfa meal will add organic matter and growth compounds, and the cottonseed meal will add slow release nitrogen and is slightly acidic which roses love. If your soil is already naturally acidic (high rainfall areas of the Eastern US and pine forested areas)  use canola seed meal instead of cottonseed meal, or just add some ground calcium with your cottonseed meal to buffer the acid.  Now, believe it our not you are going to add this mix to your roses 2 or 3 times a year, and boy are they going to love it! The best time to top dress with this organic compost/fertilizer mix is in the spring before bloom and in the fall before the winter rains begin in earnest.
    The good news, is that with healthy soil your roses will have very few pests. A healthy plant, like a healthy person, is not prone to diseases and is rarely sick. Since you are feeding your plants a good healthy organic meal they will be healthy and strong. What to do if your roses do get some pests? The most common rose pest are aphids. Oh yuck those nasty aphids!  Now, what does everyone do when they see aphids on their roses? Well, they freak out and run around with pesticides and spray the leaves with high pressure hoses. My advice with aphids is simple. Do nothing. In fact be happy that you have aphids, because in an organic system pests attract beneficial insects (think lady bugs) which will voraciously eat up the aphids and then go on to other plants in your garden to find more pests. You see, you want pests in your garden. You want a healthy happy ecosystem doing all the work for you. Once you spray and kill the pests, the beneficial insects will leave and you are left with all the work!  What about aphids spreading disease? Remember, you have healthy plants so they will fight off most diseases, just like a healthy person will survive a few mosquito bites. I know, it is a bit of paradigm shift to allow pests in your garden, but just watch, they will come and go and your roses will be no worse for the experience.  
     There are a zillion ways to prune roses and most methods work well depending on the look you want your rose bushes to have. The one thing I can add is that it helps tremendously to prune your roses so they have adequate air circulation. Fungal diseases breed in humidity, so remove any crossing branches and keep your bushes nice and open and airy.



    So there you have it, feed your roses a good meal twice a year, let the bugs do their thing, and watch your roses thrive like never before. Watch as your spindly chemical dependent plants develop nice green foliage and bloom and grow like mad. And enjoy the natural system which takes care of itself, while you relax in a nice healthy garden and enjoy the show.

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Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 at 08:24AM by Registered Commenter[Your Name Here] in | Comments7 Comments | References34 References

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Reader Comments (7)

Nice organic roses. You are really the expert on gardening. I found great information about roses here that i must tell to my friends. Other roses info you might interest here http://www.aero-garden.us/rose-plants

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHelmi

Nice organic roses. You are really the expert on gardening. I found great information about roses here that i must tell to my friends. Other roses info you might interest here http://www.aero-garden.us/rose-plants

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHelmi

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Are you sure about the 2-3 inches? I think it must be less than that, isn't it? I couldn't ignore it because I am an expert in this kind of stuff.

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June 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpepe cadena

I have to agree, roses and other plants grown on organic methods have better yields and prettier blooms than those grown with commercial means.
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August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

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