Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Tips for pruning and feeding rose bushes

Depending on your location – or more specifically, that of your garden – you may have experienced frost damage to your roses and tender young plants. The thing is, even gardens in the same general vicinity may have different effects due to their prevailing micro-climates. According to AccuWeather, for the first half of March the coldest nighttime temp will be 36 degrees Monday, March 4. The average date for the last frost date is Friday, March 15. Overall, temperatures predicted for March are near average and rain is likely. Roses enjoy this weather – it encourages them to jump into life.

After pruning

First, make sure the garden is free of left-over debris and dispose of it in the green garden waste bin – do not compost rose debris in your yard. Backyard composting doesn't get hot enough to kill any pathogens. Second, if you didn't do it already for pruning, remove all old leaves that may be left on the bush. This cleanliness will help keep down disease. Depending on how many roses you have and how much pruning you had to do, your pruners may need to be sharpened.

Take time now to inspect and make any necessary repairs to your irrigation system while there is little new foliage. Then you'll be prepared to begin a regular irrigation schedule. Drip systems are the most efficient and they avoid problems created by above-ground sprayers and sprinklers, which waste water and can foster mold, mildew and rust. If possible, avoid any over-spray or misting applied elsewhere in your garden that may hit your roses; but if you use overhead watering systems, avoid doing so when there is any wind to avoid moisture evaporating or collecting on leaves which could result in sunburn or add to conditions favorable for fungal diseases. For best results and efficiency, schedule irrigation so it is complete before the day gets hot – preferably by mid-morning, that is, 8-9 a.m. Avoid afternoon or evening watering to prevent excess ground moisture into night time. Too wet soil can lead to unhappy roots and/or fungal diseases.

Clean and sharpen pruners

Sharp pruners make for clean cuts and the prevention of diseases or otherwise damaged weak canes. The best files to use are thin flat types with diamond grit material. This type allows easier sharpening for the tight spaces between the cutting blade and bar. Attempt to follow the current/original bevel/angle of the sharp blade. Felco said that the angle for their pruners is 23 degrees. Keeping pruners clean can be done using >70% isopropyl alcohol, 0000 steel wool or a small brass bristle brush to remove heavy deposits of plant "juice" will help remove it. Lubricate the mechanism with a light oil like 3-in-One.


If your roses experienced fungal diseases last year and you haven't yet done so, you might think of applying a copper dormant spray soon – but only if you can be fairly certain it won't rain for 24 hours. You can mix Horticultural Oil with the dormant spray for better adherence – but read the label to make sure you can mix different sprays. These will reduce the likelihood of early fungal and pest issues. Oh, and as a note of caution: Be prepared for chilli thrips as temperatures warm up.

First read the spray label completely to ensure the proper strength of the mixture for "growing season instructions" as the new growth has begun. Second, saturate all canes and the soil surface of the entire bed. Third, maintain a minimum of 2 inches to 4 inches of organic composted mulch over the entire garden surface to insulate the upper 8 inches to 12 inches of the soil zone where most rose roots feed, and to reduce evaporation and conserve water, while still providing sufficient moisture. It will also supply nutrients to build the soil for your roses over the season.


Roses do love food and water for the best blooms. Rule of thumb: When new growth is 2-3 inches long it is time to begin a fertilizing program. I suggest an initial feeding be higher in nitrogen (N) to encourage new stem and leaf growth. In about two weeks, apply fertilizer that is higher in phosphate (P) and potassium (K) to give roots a boost at that start of season. New information suggests that continued use of fertilizer higher in P and K will foster greater root development and lead to better growth, disease resistance and healthier plants. Look for fertilizers rated as 8-10-8 that include micro elements for greater results. Also, you can apply worm castings; available at garden stores and nurseries.

I highly recommend organic type fertilizers vs. inorganic or "chemical" ones. Organics foster better soil development, a richer, livelier, more viable community of soil organisms that break the elements into easily absorbed form and release them slowly. They will "build" soil structure into a healthy component and when used regularly will develop a soil rich in reserve energy, allowing you to use less product with the same results.

There will be an American Rose Society Pacific Southwest District Rose Show and Convention, April 26-28, at Los Angeles Arboretum, in Arcadia, sponsored by the Pacific Rose Society. It's a beautiful venue with lots of interesting trees and shrubs, as well as noisy peacocks.

Also the San Diego Rose Society will sponsor a rose show May 4-5. As in past years it will be at the Ronald Reagan Center, 195 E. Douglas Avenue in El Cajon. Make plans to attend.

Be sure to visit the Rose Haven Heritage Garden located at 30500 Jedediah Smith Road in Temecula, a 3.4-acre rose garden owned and maintained by the Temecula Valley Rose Society, a 501(c)(3) organization, supported with donations from kind people like you. The cross street is Cabrillo Avenue. Look for the donation box when you visit. Also, visit at regularly for great information and schedule of events. Spread the joy of roses.


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