One of the most important tasks that you can do before starting to grow a new plant is to get a soil test. This will give you an accurate indication of the chemical makeup of your soil. The test will also include recommendations on what amendments you need to successfully grow roses in your garden.

All plants need 16 chemical elements for healthy growth. Most of these elements are already available in the air and the soil and don’t need to be added by us.

There are 3 macro nutrients that most of us are familiar with and play the most important part in a plant's health.

The 3 macro nutrients are Nitrogen (N) Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).

These 3 elements are usually the main ingredients in the fertilizers that most of us use.

Nitrogen is converted to amino acids which make up the plants DNA. It stimulates dark green foliage which is critical to a plant's health.

Phosphorus this element can be affected by environmental factors which can influence its uptake by the plant. It helps to stimulate strong root growth, large flowers and strong stems.

Potassium also aids in producing vigorous root systems, and encourages strong bloom color.

Organic vs. in organic

The choice is yours as whether to go organic or non-organic or a mixture of both. Organic fertilizers take a little longer to break down in the soil and to be taken up by the plant than chemical fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers are derived from formerly living plants or animals. Some examples are bone meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, and fish emulsion.

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A new organic rose food from Bradfield Organic
I want to test in the coming season. This is a 4-6-3 blend

Chemical fertilizers are manmade formulated to specific plants needs.

The term “Balanced Rose Food “ means that it contains a blend of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium not necessarily in equal parts; but in a formulation that is beneficial to roses. For example a rose fertilizer labeled as a 6-12-6 means that is has 6% N 12% P and 6% K. The other 76% of the fertilizer are trace elements and inert ingredients.

When to Fertilize

Newly Planted Roses

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I apply no fertilizer when planting a new rose. I add compost and a handful of bone meal or super phosphate to the planting hole.
After the first bloom cycle is complete you can start your fertilization program.

Established Roses

The best indicator that I can give you as to when to begin fertilizing in the spring is; when the forsythia blooms you can prune and fertilize your roses.

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Bayer 2 in 1 also contains a systemic
insecticide. I've had no insect problems
since I've been using this product

I personally have been using the Bayer 2 in 1 Flower and Rose Care for several years and am very happy with the results. I apply it when I first prune in the spring and reapply it every 5-6 weeks during the growing season with the last application the 2nd or 3 rd week in August here in USDA zone 6. This gives any new growth time to harden off before the first frost hits. Between these applications I make an alfalfa tea and apply every 2-3 weeks. By following these procedures I produce a pretty good rose garden.

Here is a recipe for an organic rose fertilizer you can make yourself.

Organic Rose Food

1 cup bone meal or super phosphate (0-20-0)
1 cup cottonseed meal
½ cup blood meal
½ cup fish meal
This recipe is per each bush
Water thoroughly, spread mixture evenly around the rose at the drip line.
Scratch into the top 1-2 inches of soil and water again.

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Alfalfa meal is an excellent source of
nitrogen for roses

Alfalfa Tea

4- 1 pound coffee cans of alfalfa meal

Place the meal into a black 30 gallon trash can. Fill the can with water, cover and place in a sunny location. After 1 week it is ready to use. I use a 2 gallon watering can on each plant. It may also be sprinkled on the foliage.

This year I’m going to begin to use a produce called Messenger on my roses. It contains a protein called Harpin. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews on this product. I can’t wait to use it. Have any of you used it on your roses?

Coming next on Growing Roses from A-Z: Diseases and pests that affect roses.