Well, if you have put off fall pruning (as I have!) because of this hot September, don’t delay: there is still time to get it done and to have another cycle of blooms before Thanksgiving.
Plan to do a few every morning while it’s still cool and the job should be easy – I keep telling myself.
Remember, this fall pruning is fairly light, usually about a quarter of the plant removed; see last month’s article for the details.
The objective is to remove stems that are less productive so the plant can put on some sturdy structural growth and blooms before winter dormancy.
If you don’t prune now, or if you prune too lightly, the blooms will be small and the stems weak.
October is a good time to do a major garden cleanup. Pick up all cuttings, dead leaves, weeds and other debris and put it in the curbside green waste. Don’t compost it.
Most people’s compost never gets hot enough to kill the many disease organisms and pests and seeds that rose debris can harbor, and these can overwinter in the compost pile to infect your garden.
Add a new layer of composted mulch at this time if you have it.
Pruning stimulates the plant to put out new growth, so keep an eye on your roses’ water needs.
Even though the weather will get cooler as the year comes to an end, we all know that there will be periods of intense heat and drying winds that can be unkind to tender new growth.
Roses still need feeding. From now until late November, use fertilizers that are slightly higher in potassium (the “K” in the NPK printed on the bag or box).
The potassium will work with the phosphate applied earlier in the year to make the root systems more vigorous so it can withstand whatever heat or cold come its way.
Remember, never feed a dry or water-stressed plant. Thoroughly water the plant 24 hours before applying fertilizer.
October is also a great time to evaluate your rose garden. Decide which plants are nonperformers for you and find them a new home.
Plan for removal and prepare the site for the incoming bushes in late December or early January.
Seek catalogs of roses and make your selections now to be certain to get your choices. Many new roses are available and some will be exhibition winners.
Feel free to stop by Rose Haven Heritage Garden at 30592 Jedediah Smith Road in Temecula or visit our Web site, http://www.temeculavalleyrosesociety.org for assistance.