by Bill George

This is the time of year that we should all be concentrating on winterizing our rose gardens. One of the primary concerns should be providing a sufficient amount of water to see your roses through the winter. That means turning your hoses on and letting them saturate the soil in your garden. This has been a terribly dry Autumn and roses need to get their fill before the ground freezes. Once the frost is in the ground, it is this water you are providing now that will get your plants through the Winter season. The drying winds of Winter will wreak havoc on a rose garden that is put to bed without that last drink of water. Remember, dehydration will do as much damage to a rose as those ultra cold temperatures. So, while you're out in your garden applying soil, compost or oak leaves to each plant for Winter protection, let the water flow.

This is also a great time of year to think about where you might like a new garden for next Spring. This is the time to begin prepping the soil and laying out the borders. If you're going to do this in an area of lawn, remove the sod and top soil and store to the side. Once down to the subsoil, remove a minimum of one spade depth and more if you have the energy and a place to dispose of the soil. Now you can back fill your new garden with all sorts of wonderful nutrients that your new roses are going to love come Spring. First item back in should be all of that sod you originally removed, remembering to lay it in, "green side down", to deter it from growing back. While you're still below ground level, bone meal is a great additive for the soil at this stage. You might also want to save a sample of your soil, (completely dried and about a Zip Lock bag's worth) to be tested for soil acidity. This is very important if you want to be assured of great roses next year. You can have this done at any county extension agency here in Michigan for about $7.00. I think they all send their samples out to MSU for testing purposes and you receive a report in the mail about a month later.

Finally, the remainder of the new garden can be back filled with a mixture of top soil, compost, manure or any plant material that will breakdown over the Winter excluding any leaves or cuttings from other rose bushes. This past year's annuals would make great compost for next year's garden. Shredded leaves work well along with any type of manure you might lay your hands on. If you've done all this, to prep your new garden, your 1999 roses will reward you handsomely with great blooms.

On a final note, most of you know that earlier this year, I wrote an article mentioning the use of aluminum sulfate in my rear garden to increase the soil acidity. After the article was published here in the Rose Lore. I was contacted by a fellow rosarian stating that he had read from two different sources that aluminum sulfate should never be used in conjunction with roses. Shortly after that another member from the DRS also contacted me, saying he had heard a noted speaker say the same thing. Nobody could specifically tell me why this product was dangerous to use with roses. As I had mentioned, my rear garden seemed to prosper after one application. It had, in fact, been my best year for bloom production in this garden. Finally, I decided to email Dr. John T. Dickman, who answers rose-related questions in the monthly, American Rose Magazine. To my surprise and delight, he responded to my query promptly. Dr. Dickman stated that if applied in the proper quantities, aluminum sulfate is not harmful to use with roses. It is only when too much of this product is used does it become detrimental to roses or any other plants for that matter, because it changes the acidity of the soil too quickly. He stated, for this reason, many rosarians opt to use sulfur as an alternative because it changes the acidity at a slower rate. He assured me that if my garden had prospered this season, I had nothing to worry about. Well, what do you know, for once I did something right! I would like to thank all the people that contacted me with any information on this subject as it made for great discussions and aided in the learning process. If anyone has any more questions or comments regarding this subject, I'm all ears! Until next month, enjoy the last of this year's roses.

Return to My Home Page