By Sharon Radice Moore
February in the Coachella Valley is an engaging month filled with wonder and waiting. Many days I find myself wondering if I should wear my raincoat or a sundress. Other times I ponder if I will blister from the mischievous soon to be penetrating spring sun, or cover my citrus and herbs to protect them from yet another startling overnight freeze.
I wait upon the will of the garden gods to restore my “naked ladies” (freshly pruned rose bushes) to their splendor while I rejoice in the magic of our Valley’s winter.
Few geographic locations afford the luxury of driving with one’s sunroof open because it is winter and 72°. Whilst enjoying a rare view of snow crowned mountains above a desert floor.
Nevertheless, my roses care not for my poetic musings; they just keep doing what roses do, and my fascination of them and indenture to them rages on.
In February, if you have not funded the time to prune as yet, remember it is better to prune late than not at all. Yet, it is still best to complete your pruning in January and essential by the end of February.
This timetable will assure your roses enough “growing” time to renew themselves, and provide you with the maximum number of blooming cycles prior to taking their leave of summer’s peril, when blooming is curtailed.
Not only is winter the best time to welcome new growth in your rose garden via pruning; it is a brilliant time to plant roses, and to move or dispose of those that did not perform as expected – may they rest in peace or in someone else’s garden forever more.
Here are some tips to assist you with February’s work in the rose garden:
- After pruning, wait to fertilize until about one-inch of new growth appears. Unless you are using organics, then immediately pruning is appropriate.
- Continue to plant bare root and container roses this month, which is best done without delay after bringing them home. January and February remain the most desirable months to plant in our climate. Should your garden suffer from poor soil conditions, think about increasing the size of your planting holes to give your roses ample space to grow in the finest soil possible.
- Prior to purchasing, you may want to research your rose selections through HelpMeFind.com/roses to determine if they are right for your garden.
Often I have found the new love of my life is heat sensitive, too tall, too short, or does not repeat bloom, etc.
- Remember to keep your bare root roses well hydrated until planted. Open and remove them from their bags or boxes immediately and submerge them in a container of water for at least twenty-four hours and up to three days prior to planting; just a drop of Superthrive can help with new home shock as well. Along these lines, I prefer to buy container roses as I see exactly what I am purchasing.
- Remember our desert soil is almost devoid of any organic matter, so what you give your rose in the planting hole is all that will nourish it. To plant, mix one-half organic planting mix with one-half garden soil, plus your chosen amendments, for the optimum outcome.
- Replenish soil amendments for established roses and add three to four inches of mulch or compost on top.
- Soil Amendments are defined as anything added or mixed with the soil. Even so, different additives work in a variety of ways to perfect your soil.
- For example, compost and manure advance your soils ability to germinate seeds and for roots to spread by loosening it. Loose soil allows earthworms, and other beneficial life forms to travel with ease through your soil, improving its structure with their adventures and leaving behind rich organic waste.
- Compost and manure also add nutritional value, primarily nitrogen. However, their most significant component is their organic matter. This nurtures microorganisms, which convert present nutrients to a form efficiently used by your plant to feed itself.
- Fertilizer, by legal description, must supply a minimum amount of specific minerals. The basic ones are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, often referred to as the NPH and expressed on the packaging, as a group of numbers like, 10-10-10. These are the fundamental mineral requirements for most plant life. Nitrogen promotes leaf growth, and green foliage, phosphorous encourages root development, and flowering. Potassium supplies overall health and hardiness to heat, drought and cold plus acting as a catalyst for nitrogen and phosphorus.
- Many brands contain additional trace elements and other organic essentials like meals (cottonseed, kelp, alfalfa, blood, bone, and soybean) that decompose over time improving the soil structure.
- Some, like liquid kelp meal and fish emulsion not only fertilize, but also break down organic matter making it more available for your roses to feed themselves.
- Wood chips, hay, straw, grass clippings, wood ash, and others alive or previously alive, are considered “organic” amendments. They will enhance soil drainage, aerate, improve the PH (acidy), and provide some nutritional value. Some believe wood chips can rob the soil of nitrogen, so watch for slow growth if you use them.
- Bone meal and pulverized crab or oyster shells contribute potassium, phosphorus, and calcium which when used with sand can moderate acidic soil. Blood meal is dried blood and high in nitrogen.
- Epsom salt (Magnesium Sulfate) works both alone and in harmony with fertilizers enhancing their efficacy. It stimulates new stronger canes, larger flowers and verdant green foliage.
- Inorganic amendments are those not originating from living things. Examples of these are vermiculite, perlite, sand and pea gravel. Vermiculite and perlite added to soil increase its ability to retain water, while sand and pea gravel remedy soil retaining too much water. Sand and gypsum will loosen heavy clay ground.
- Roses benefit from adding amendments the same way we benefit from nourishing ourselves with food, vitamins and minerals. Their soil is the foundation of their lives as our bodies are the foundation of ours. Healthy soil equals healthy, strong roses and happy gardeners.
Until next time…from my garden to yours,
Think Rosy Thoughts!