Is my soil a disaster for roses?!

joannacalaFebruary 13, 2007

OK, I have done the soil testing with the home kit and am shocked by the results. Soil pH is 7.5 (which I suspected) phosphorus shows the highest reading and nitrogen and potassium show the lowest readings. I gather these tests may not be too reliable but what is the best way to proceed now? I have bought a group of Austins and Eden climbers and placed them all along a wire fence at approx. 1.5 meter intervals. I did add about 1/3 organic store bought organic compost to the large planting holes, but nothing else.

My provisional plan is as follows:

Lower soil pH with sulphur feeds (70% organic liquid sulphur feed is available to me here - would this work?)

Add layer of rotted horse manure

Top with coconut coir mulch - not sure if I should do these two steps only after the first bloom cycle, or earlier (now) as it will already be hot in 2 months' time.

Irrigate with drippers at rate of approx. 12 liters twice per week, after the rains have stopped.

Add slow-release fertiliser (15-7-15) every 2 months, after first bloom.

Add seeweed extract throughout growing season, for micronutrients.

Perhaps give roses a dose of Confidor at start of season to ward off pests (which last summer attacked my citrus, frangipanis and jasmine).

Experiment with banana skins, underplanting with garlic and parsley etc.

I would love to hear comments, thoughts and suggestions on this schedule. I have never grown a rose in my life but the pictures of folks' gardens here have inspired me to try and I am deternined to succeed!

I haven't started a compost bin yet -that is the next project, so I need a plan that will get the roses through this season. I do not live in the US, and the majority of products I see mentioned here are not available to me. Nor is alfalfa! (although an organic product with chicken meal is).

Thanks so much!


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steveandjoy(z10 BGI)

Hi Joanna. I thought I'd respond to a couple points here, but I want to say upfront that I am not a rose expert, just someone who has some in my garden in Barbados and have tried out a few things.

Bananas - my roses loved them. Apply ripe ones under soil near roots or blend them up and pour into soil at base of roses.

Garlic - good deterrent for pests. I usually blend some up with bananas and water and apply to roots. I do not have a recipe, just throw in a few cloves and a couple bananas and fill up the blender with water. For spraying onto the leaves, I usually blend up a head of garlic and dilute it into about 1 gallon of water with about 1/2tsp of dishwashing soap.

Fertilisers - I only use fish and seaweed based fertilisers. Works well for me.

Power of water - blast of insects with a good stream of water from your hose.

In my humble opinion, I believe that you soil should be around a ph of about 6 and I hope that some other users respond and indicate the best method to get it down to that number.

Animal manure is usually good for plants, once it is fully rotted down so as to avoid burning the plants.

Hope your garden blooms well.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 3:32PM
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Hi Joanna,
I'm new to roses, too, but I've done a lot of self-education. I learned on Sunday at a mini-seminar that roses do best at a PH between 6.3 and 6.5. My soil is about 7.0 with limestone rocks scattered through it; otherwise, it's Florida sand. For a while when I thought it was more alkaline, I was thinking about removing all the soil in the bed and having compost delivered in a truck, so that's an option (albeit an ugly one.) When I found out it was 7.0 and not worse, I decided I would dig really large holes, line the bottom and sides with pine needles (they're very acid), use the recommended dose of soil sulphur (only to be used once a year, I believe, because it will harm the plants, then you check the PH again), make new soil out of maybe 33% original soil, 33% peat moss which has a low PH (wet it before mixing it in - it repels water), and the rest store-bought compost, Black Kow (aged manure), and a "soil conditioner" which is just ground up pine bark (very acid.) I'm going organic, too. Cottonseed meal is a good nitrogen source, and it acidifies the soil. You could use fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants also. Pine bark mulch and/or oak leaves will acidify the soil. I was told that roses won't be happy at 7.0. Also, salt isn't good for plants. Just like humans, it makes them thirsty and they require more water, and salt is what burns the plant when you over-fertilize. Maybe what's in the alfalfa isn't enough to matter alot, but I would water more than you planned to compensate. In Florida roses are heavy feeders. I use alfalfa & fish emulsion, too. I have been told to fertilize monthly year round.
I kind of think if you use a heavy dose of sulphur on your soil, you should wait several months before you plant. A Master Gardener told me that I should grow what likes alkaline soil because "high PH" could not be corrected. That's why I thought of insulating the plant from the original soil with the pine straw. Probably a crazy idea that won't accomplish what I want. I was told compost does nothing to change PH - but it does keep nematodes away which we have here. I would think that you would have lots of garden amendments available in Israel since it's reported that they produce wonderful things from the desert in Israel. Well, I hope you find everything you need including advise. I saw those same photos of rose gardens so I know where your heart is. My garden still looks like a demolition zone with about 10 roses in pots waiting to go in the ground. I don't understand why it takes me all day to plant 2 roses - oh, maybe it's because I have to move out 2 or 3 plants & relocate them elsewhere and prepare those holes and lug the compost & peat & manure & shovels & water back & forth. We have chloronated city water which is bad for the microorganisms that I'm trying to encourage so I fill tubs with hose water and let it sit for 24 hours, then dip it out to each rose a gallon at a time - everyday because they're newly planted. I must really love roses! I only hope they survive. DH is investigating a rain collection system. My Mrs. B. R. Cant (only 10 days in the ground) is blooming beautifully. She's on Fortuniana rootstock and is supposed to become a 9' x 9' monster. Keep in touch. Sherry

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 9:08PM
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Here's a thought. Have you contacted a local Rose Society? I googled and found the site below. Their address & phone # is:
The Wohl Rose Park of Jerusalem
P.O. Box 10185
91101 Jerusalem
(Country Code: 972) 2-5637233
Maybe someone there could advise you better.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Jerusalem Foundation

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 9:20PM
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Hi Joanna,

For alfalfa if you don't have a farm supply store in your area. I just use my rabbit food pellets. Just make sure that it is made with alfalf, there is 2 different type of rabbit pellets.

Now where i live and my neigbors are very close to each other I am sure they would not like the smell.

All my plants are in pots right now until we find a house to buy.

So I place about 20 pellets to each pot every month, mixed into the soil.

I hope this helps you to find this in your area.

Hugs janice

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 11:09PM
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About the testers for your soil: I tried a couple of them a few years ago. One day I decided to send some out to the usda testing service. The results were very thorough and totally different than the results from the testers I bought.
Since that I would never use the others again. I think about every state has the testing and it isn't all that expensive to do. Mine was about $25 and was the best buy I ever made.
If your state by some odd chance doesn't do it try a neighboring state. You won't regret it at all.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 3:03PM
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