While our fellow gardeners in the North are still hibernating, we in the South are getting ready to start our growing season. Here is a rundown of what rosarians in the South have in their To-Do-List for February:
CLEAN UP – If you have not done anything in the garden in January, it is time to start the clean up now before the growing season begins in earnest. Take off the old leaves and dead canes from your rose bushes. Bag them and put them in the trash. Any diseased leaves that fell to the ground, rake them up and discard them. Do NOT put in the compost pile. Pull out weeds and keep your garden bed neat and tidy.
SHOVEL PRUNING – Any dead rose and non-performing rose for the last two years have to go. No sense in spending time, space and money on them. Get rid of them and replace them with new ones. Before you plant the new one, replace all the soil in the hole.
CATALOGUE BROWSING – I don’t know about you but I’m inundated with catalogs since January. There are so many new rose introductions. Don’t go with the picture alone. Read the description. A lot of gardeners are now looking for disease resistant roses and fragrant roses. I am one of them. Since I have a small garden, I only want fragrant roses now. I also have limited time for garden work so I like disease resistant roses.
WATERING – Roses need water even in winter. A well-hydrated rose will fare better at all times. Make sure you water your roses if there is no rain in the forecast. Roses in pots should be watered a few times during the week.
PRUNING – Major pruning should be done by the end of February in our region. Bob Lundberg will be talking about pruning at our February meeting so I’ll let you hear from Bob all the details.
SPRAYING – Consider spraying with dormant oil before it gets too warm to discourage bugs and diseases in the coming rose season. If your roses struggled with blackspot this past year, lime sulfur is a good way to help clean up lingering fungal spores, along with a horticultural oil that will smother pests and their eggs. If you spray lime sulfur, make sure to do so when overnight temperatures will remain above freezing and be sure to read the label and apply in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations. It is a good idea to spray both the ground and the plant and getting good coverage both top and bottom of the leaves.
TESTING THE SOIL pH – If you have not tested the pH of your soil, it is time to do it now. Soil samples need to come from the root zone of the plant, which means getting down past the mulch into the root zone where the soil chemistry is important. If the pH is lower than 6.0, you should add a slow-acting lime. If the test showed the pH higher than 7.0, then you should add sulfur. A pH of 6.5 is ideal for roses to be able to maximize the available nutrients. The question is, how much lime is the right amount? To raise the pH from 5.5 to 6.5 a typical application rate is 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet of garden area. Do not use more than 5 pounds per 100 square feet at any one time. If you are not sure how big your rose bed is, use 1 cup of lime per bush and ½ cup per miniature. remember that raking the lime into the top couple inches of soil will yield better results than sprinkling it over the soil’s surface.
SOIL AMENDMENTS – Spread your organic fertilizer like alfalfa meal now. It will not cause the plant to start growing until the soil warms up in the spring. I usually put in compost and put a new layer of mulch. I also put Epsom Salts at this time of the year.
After you get the garden ready, sit back and wait for the spring bloom.