I’ve always disliked spraying. I hated the fumes, the mess, the protective clothing and the risk of breathing in toxins or absorbing them through my skin. But when I started gardening I learned that you just couldn’t grow roses organically and felt that I was negligent when spray time came and I procrastinated… and procrastinated.
All the books I had read told me that roses needed regular spraying or they would be covered with disease. It came as a surprise each year to find that my roses thrived as well as those in my friend’s garden, which received several sprays a season. I thumbed through several books that described organic methods of growing roses and came to the conclusion that if Nature doesn’t need to use toxic sprays, neither do I.
If you grow roses organically you can avoid the dangers of exposure to dangerous pesticides. What’s more, human and animal users of the garden are not exposed to spray residue.
How to Grow Roses Organically
There are three criteria for successful growth and these apply to conventional gardening as well. They are:
- Prepare for planting. This will spare you work and disappointment later.
- Build up a rich, healthy soil.
- Choose plants that are suited to your climate
- Find out about the varieties you have chosen. Do they have any special requirements?
Below is a simple organic method, one of many.
- Preparing the soil is of utmost importance.* This is done by digging in compost or well-rotted manure, preferably both. You can add other organic fertilisers if you have them, and a sprinkle of Epsom salts.
- All roses don’t have the same requirements. This applies particularly to temperature but they vary too in such matters as the type of soil or the amount of shade they’ll tolerate.
- Choose roses suitable for your area. Read any instructions that come with them. If in doubt, ask the retailer what you want to know or look online.
- Check very carefully if you are buying roses from a different zone. Some may not suit your zone.
- Choose your rose bed to accommodate their needs. Roses need 8 – 10 hours of sun per day although some old-fashioned roses, such as rugosas can thrive with less. If your summers are short or your site is more shady than desirable, look for shade-tolerant varieties.
When planting time comes dig a hole that is large enough to take the root ball and with some space to spare. Dig some compost and manure into the base of the hole. You may also wish to dig in a little organic fertiliser such as blood and bone (check the packet for the right amount).
- Place the rose so that the graft join is above soil level and fill in the hole with soil and compost. Firm the soil around the bush and water thoroughly.
- You could consider using companion plants to encourage beneficial insects and discourage pests. Suitable companions include garlic, nasturtium and alyssum.
- Feed your roses once a month with an organic fertiliser. Use an amount according to instructions on the bag, sprinkle it around the roots and drip-line of the plant and water in.
- Water frequently, keeping as much of the water as possible off the leaves.
- If aphids and other insect pests appear on the bushes, wash them off with a hose. Alternatively, spray the plants with a home-made insecticide or purchase an organic commercially produced one.
- Many roses are susceptible to fungal diseases such as black spot and rust. These can be treated with neem oil spray, which will also control sucking or chewing insects.
When you grow roses organically the work involved is arguably less time-consuming than if you used conventional methods. But perhaps a greater advantage is the peace of mind, knowing that you, your family and your pets are safe from the dangers and toxic residues of non-organic sprays.
- See http://gardening.about.com/od/soil/a/GardenSoil.htm for an article on building healthy soil