Why do we feed?
Roses are fed to provide the plant with all the ingredients needed for healthy growth. In the wild roses will grow from material which falls to the ground around the plant and decomposes. In our gardens we pick flowers and take away rose pruning so replacing these elements are needed for a healthy plant.
How much to feed?
Based on my above observation the amount of food needed by any rose plant should equal the amount of nutrients taken from the plant consisting of mostly flowers and pruning’s. It is hard to give a definite answer to how much for it all depends on what you require from your plants and how large the plants are. In most gardens wanting a good display of roses I recommend 1 feed after pruning with the amount roughly 1 handful per average plant with miniatures less and climbers 2-3 times this amount.
When to feed?
The best time to apply is after winter when the new rose growth is appearing. Organic fertilisers do take more time to break down and need to be applied earlier than manufactured chemical fertilisers which dissolve quickly and need to be applied only when plants have broken their dormancy.
We normally only feed once after winter however in some soil types a feed after summer could be useful.
For roses in pots the potting mixes are only a growing medium and need more regular feeds. A recommendation is monthly. An occasional liquid feed over the foliage also gives a quicker response however care must be taken not to do if too hot.
What types of fertilisers?
To feed plants consumers are faced with a multitude of choices and without help it can be confusing. We see advertised Organic, Chemical, Slow Release, Liquid or Animal manure.
Organic Fertiliser. I feel the best type of fertiliser is one that not only feeds the plants but helps improve the soil. Organic has this reputation yet today there are many variations from pure organic fertiliser through to those with some adding trace elements.
Depending on what is added we can experience problems in the garden if some added ingredients are at too higher levels than needed. Copper is one element which needs to be in control as it can affect worm levels in the soil. Too much Sulphur is fine for alkaline soil but can be a real problem in Acidic soils.
I recommend ’Dynamic Lifter’, ‘Katek’ and ‘Rapid Raiser’ as three excellent products which are basic poultry mature and give high levels of nitrogen in the form of organic material.
Chemical Fertiliser – Fertiliser seen in many garden centres labelled as ‘rose food’ is probably chemical fertilisers. These are manufactured with elements in the correct proportions to give the plant what is needed for optimum growth. Chemical fertilisers are just food and do little to improve the structure of the soil or add the organic material vital to create a healthy soil environment. These products do however have a use in rose growing. As the product dissolves quite quickly it is ideal to get a quick ‘hit’ to a plant for instant growth.
Slow Release – As the name suggests slow release fertilisers are plant food encased in a membrane which slowly dissolves providing the food to the plant in a controlled manner. Another name for these types of fertilisers is Controlled Release Fertilisers. The main uses for these fertilisers are when planting new plants in the ground or providing feed for roses in pots.
Liquid – There are only a few liquid fertilisers on the market. Liquid fertilisers are a watery based bottle of concentrated feed ready to be taken up by the plant giving an instant hit to any plant fed with it. Products such as ‘Sudden Impact for Roses’ and ‘Power Feed’ are two of the more popular products and both are excellent to use for that quick hit of food.
In this section I would like to mention other liquid products.
‘Seasol’ has been around for quite a while and many ‘feed’ their plants with it. This product is not a plant food but more of a soil tonic proven to help new plants form roots. Any struggling plant can see vast improvement with a regular using of this product. It is one I highly recommend to have in the garden shed in case of need.
‘Go Go Juice’ is a newer product packed with beneficial bacteria ideal for soils depleted of these vital living organisms. Soil under plastic or where concrete removed can benefit immensely by using this product. However if your roses are growing successfully the need for this product is greatly reduced.
Animal Manure. Times have moved along since the picking up of horse manure or cow manure from a field. Most animal fertilisers are pre-packaged and well-aged avoiding the heat a fresh material can have if added to the plants. In the bags the products are refined, do not have the weed or oat seeds and can provide a garden with a rich organic material ideal for plant growth.
Mulch. Although not a fertiliser the addition of many types of mulch can feed the plants. High nitrogen mulches such as Lucerne, Pea and Bean straw can be used but look locally for other products such as rice husks, grape marq from vineyards, and sugar cane. The newly created ‘Who Flung Dung’ helps keep moisture in the soil with the bonus of added fertiliser. This product may eliminate the need to both mulch and feed as it is all in one.
The most important fact any gardener must remember is with any food there needs to be water. Fertiliser no matter what type needs to be dissolved to get into the soil and taken up by worms deeper in the soil profile. For a healthy worm population there needs to be feed, water and low levels of harmful elements.
The combination of feed and water is the ideal combination for quick growth yet it is the water which is the most important element for growth of roses. Always remember nearly every living organism can survive for periods without food yet cannot live without water.