It’s March and hopefully this winter will be coming to a soggy close soon. Harbingers of spring – daffodils blooming, cherry and plum trees putting on a spectacular show, and deciduous plants begin bursting with new life – including loads of blemish-free green and mahogany-red foliage on roses. Along with this explosion of growth come the first unwanted visitors to the garden – spittlebugs and aphids. These pests are generally more unsightly than damaging. Just knock them off with a strong stream of water.
One step in keeping down the pest and disease population for the upcoming growing season is keeping your garden clean:
- Get rid of the nooks and crannies that insect pests lay their eggs or spores wait out the winter months
- Pick up and dispose of any old, diseased leaves from last season
- Rake up any remnants of pruning and pull errant weeds
- Trim back companion plants near your roses so that you’ve got plenty of air circulation
After I’ve done my major pruning, I like to go back a few weeks later and do some “fine-tuning.” There may be some wimpy canes that I missed or crossing branches that escaped detection. Or maybe that big, old shaggy gray cane that I passed up the first time, on closer inspection, really needs to come out to give room for some new growth. As long as you’re just “tweaking” your pruning job, it won’t set back your springtime bloom any.
Adding mulch is a good way to reduce future weeds, though it’s best to wait until after the heavy rains of winter and early spring have let up. You don’t want to be walking around wet soil compacting it. Apply about two to three inches on the soil around your roses but leave the area around the base of the plant exposed to reduce risk of disease.
Roses don’t need fertilizer now – in fact, if you fertilize too early, you’re likely to just have the rain wash it away. Plants won’t really begin to utilize the major components in chemical fertilizer until the soil warms a bit more.
By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian