As I talk to more people about growing roses, I was amazed at most of the answers I got, “Roses are hard to grow. You have to spray constantly.” Spraying scares some people. Most people just want to grow roses without spraying those chemicals and that is the main reason “Knock Out” roses are so popular. We have to educate them that there are alternative to spraying and there are other easy roses besides Knock Out roses.
Years ago, I sprayed my roses every week. Then in 1999, I decided to stop spraying because I could not stand the smell of those chemicals to the point of closing all my windows after I sprayed the garden. I was not going for the Queen of the Rose Show at that time. I was more interested in rose arrangements and showing my garden at our annual garden tour. I need color in the garden and fragrant roses. I discovered Bayers 3-in-1 systemic would do the same job so I used that. Then Bayers stopped selling them in New York. The first year, I did not spray, the garden looked terrible. Some of the roses got defoliated completely by August. But I ignored it as I looked for other alternatives.
For starters, I discovered Gardens Alive, a purveyor of earth-friendly products. I started spreading beneficial nematodes on the edge of the lawn in the spring and fall. They killed the grubs which grow up into Japanese beetles. I got rid of the beetles. For aphids, there are some environment-friendly methods you can use. Ladybugs and lacewing larvae will eat aphids. I used ladybugs. One rose supplier I asked told me to just give them a good blast of water. A heavy thunderstorm will probably do a better job than any dose of chemical spray. Since aphids cannot fly, once you knock them off the plant, they will not be able to return.
Red spider mite is a relative of the true spider and only occurs in the late spring/early summers in very dry conditions. Once you get an infestation, it is very hard to control but the most important thing to remember is that a very fine spray must be used on the sprayer and the plant must be completely wet. An application of dormant oil in late winter will kill eggs wintering on the ground. The telltale sign of an infestation is the leaves appear to lack color and eventually fall off. The mites, which are very, very small, appear on the underside of the leaves and are reddish brown.
To take care of diseases like blackspot, I used Pyola from Gardens Alive. I also bought Serenade from Possum Landscape Supply in Charleston. I tried Roses Alive a couple of years ago and the roses look very healthy without spraying toxic chemicals. I don’t own a sprayer since the year 2000 until I won one at our picnic two years ago. It is still in the box, unopened. This year, I tried Spray n Grow and it is a great product. My roses look healthy and the blooms are bigger.
Rose Gardening World on Facebook is a great source for eco-friendly rose care. If you ask, someone will give you an answer of what they use. Someone asked the other day what do you use for rust and the reply came: “I use two uncoated aspirins for a quart of water and let the aspirins dissolve and spray. I had my yellow girl with it and the rust disappeared in two applications.”
Most important of all is to keep your garden clean, tidy and weed free. Get rid of diseased leaves. I go out there every day and if I see leaves with blackspot, I pull them out. You don’t want the disease to spread. If you have pine straw mulch, it is hard to pick up the diseased leaves stuck between the straws so I opted for black cedar mulch.
Check your garden every day to see what is going on. Without those chemicals you are inhaling, you can enjoy the beauty that surrounds you anytime without the fear of harming yourself. It’s a healthy way of rose gardening.
Until Next time. Stop and Smell the Roses.
Rosalinda (The Rose Lady)