Feeding Roses FAQs

What type of fertiliser should I choose, and when should I apply it?

Any of the proprietary, ready-mixed rose fertilisers will be perfectly satisfactory, with bone meal as a good alternative. They are easy to apply, but use gloves (preferably rubber) when handling them. About a month before spring pruning , sprinkle a small handful of fertiliser evenly around each rose bush and lightly hoe it in. Repeat the process before the end of July (later application would encourage soft autumn growth which could not ripen before being killed by winter frosts).

I read that roses benefit from foliar feeding. What is this?

This entails spraying the leaves with a specially formulated liquid fertiliser. In the normal way, nutrients travel from the soil, via the roots, to the leaves, where they are turned into plant foods. Feeding the leaves directly amounts to taking a short cut. Opinions differ as to how effective foliar feeding is. Certainly the benefits are not as long-lasting as those from normal feeding; so this kind of feeding has to be done more often—additional work the average gardener will not welcome. On the other hand, the speed with which plants take up foliar feeds is useful for the rapid correction of the effects of soil deficiencies, which are usually indicated by the yellowing of leaves in various ways.

What benefits would I get by mulching a rose bed?

A mulch 100-125 mm (4-5 in) deep spread over the bed after the ground has had a good soaking will help to smother weeds, keep the soil temperature reasonably even, and prevent the soil from drying out. Apply it in spring, when the ground has begun to warm up; but do not delay it until the time when many brittle new shoots have begun to form: these could easily be snapped off as you spread the mulch. If the mulch is of well-rotted stable manure or well-rotted compost it will provide additional plant foods and humus as it breaks down. Peat or granulated bark look tidier, but they do not feed the soil.

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