By: Ted Mills (RoseDoc), ARS Master Rosarian and Judge
After enduring a summer of extreme heat, the arrival of fall, with its cool breezes, is most welcome. Rosarians have perspired greatly because of the sustained heat. Their roses have struggled mightily to overcome heat stress.
Fall’s arrival on the scene brings with it an abundance of ideal weather to produce beautiful blooms. No longer do we have to witness the wilting of leaves and the balling of rose blossoms. Even the colors take on added brilliance and the blooms are increased in size. Rapid opening is not a problem anymore. Then too, the rosarian is more apt to visit the rose garden to attend to the needs of the bushes. The hammock and swimming pool have been cast aside.
Most rosarians know that the best blooms are provided during the fall period. It behooves the rosarian to care for the roses with all diligence, especially during the fall months. The reward is too great to leave the bushes to chance. Let’s look at some of the things that should be on our fall agenda.
First and foremost, sufficient irrigation must be provided the bushes. Often the rosarian will fall into the trap that believing that nature will always provide sufficient water. The feeling that rose plants have only a few more days to produce blooms seeps in. Consequently, the conception is that water is not so important. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bush must have sufficient moisture throughout the year, even though they reach the dormant stage. A thirsty bush resulting in dry roots will not survive very long without water. Keep those irrigation chores at the top of the list of important duties.
Secondly, fall is an opportune time to adjust the pH in your soil if it is found to be out of kilter. Optimum reading is 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 14. Slightly acidic is best for roses. Since soil is prone to become too acidic in many areas of the Tenarky District, corrective action is needed. But it takes time to do so. Application of lime during the fall months is wise but it is slow to reduce acidity. Fall application ensures correction by the time spring arrives. Of course, if alkalinity is the problem, application of sulfur will be the solution. When the soil’s pH factor is slightly acid, the root system can readily attract the nutrients provided by the rosarian. Otherwise, these become locked in place and no amount of fertilizer will reach the plant’s system. Next to watering, adjusting the pH properly is perhaps the best thing that can promote good growth.
Fall seems to slow down the activity of the rosarian. It is a time when he or she will need to ascertain which bushes provided satisfactory growth. Removal of weak and non-performing bushes is a wise action. Replace them with strong new plants. This will save time and money in the long run. Tag the plants that are to be removed and plan to order the replacements for them rather than wait until spring to place orders. This prevents a sell-out of varieties desired. Have them arrive at planting time.
If new beds are planned, fall is the best time to execute the plans. The components of the planting mix will have ample time to mellow and be ready for the spring planting. Do not wait until spring arrives as much other work is required of the rosarian at that time. Plan ahead when it comes to new bed preparation. Composted materials and organics need time to go through chemical reactions if optimum fertility is the goal.
During the lull of fall months provides a good time to evaluate the status of spray materials. Try to determine whether the shelf life of the chemicals has expired. Some rosarians find themselves using out-of-date chemicals and the result is poor performance on the part of the applied chemical. It is a good practice to order an annual supply of chemicals rather than stock up with large quantities. Fresh chemicals work much better in controlling problems. Proper storage of left-over chemicals is very important. Never expose them to excessive heat or cold. It damages the product when it is broken down. Keep the chemicals at moderate temperatures in a closed container that resists the entry of sunlight. Be sure these are kept out-of-reach of children. Proper labeling is of utmost importance.
Peruse rose catalogues and seek the advice of Consulting Rosarians in plant selection. It is a good bet they will know which varieties perform best in this area. If exhibiting is the goal, grow varieties that are proven winners. Again, ask the Consulting Rosarian for advice in this matter. The American Rose Society provides a book that will help in selecting good roses.
Fall is a good time to perform some advance pruning. Of course the major pruning is done in the spring when roses are leaving dormancy. However, minimize the pruning operation for spring by cutting away the twiggy growth that is of little value to the plant. In tall hybrid teas it is a good policy to cut about 1/3 of the plant in late fall – to about chest high. Shape the plant to produce optimum appearance in the spring. Remove the lower limbs that are close to the ground. Some rosarians remove the leaves when two or more hard freezes have occurred and the bush is dormant. This is debatable but RoseDoc does remove the leaves since they have performed their work on the plant.
Even though fall has arrived, continue the spray program until dormancy arrives and two hard freezes have occurred. Keep the beds hospital clean by removing fallen rose leaves that may harbor fungi spores that produce blackspot.
Fall is here. Enjoy it by attending to your prized roses.