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Choosing a Site For a Rose Garden
Healthy, productive roses, regardless of type or cultivar, require four things of their owner : sunlight, air circulation, water and a rich, loamy, well-drained slightly acid soil. If these are absent, the roses may grow but their appearance and bloom production will be disappointing. Selection of a planting site must take all of these factors into consideration.
Most gardening books on rose culture will state that roses require full sunlight for the entire day. This maxim is true but should be taken with a grain of salt in our hardiness zone, Zone 5. In the blistering heat of July and August, roses can roast on the bush and even miniaturize. Like all growing things, roses must have sun and will thrive in full morning sunlight if they have indirect light or dappled shade in the hottest part of the afternoon. This is a good opportunity to recommend that rose gardeners be aware of the geographical area as well as the heat zones which the authors of rose books call home. Advice for one area may not apply in others.
Good air circulation through the leaves reduces the incidence of fungus diseases. Locate the rose bed at some distance from trees and shrubs so the plants will have adequate air circulation and will not be forced to compete for water and nutrients.
With good reason rosarians say that water is the best fertilizer. Most plants will need only one inch of water per week but, again, this amount needs to be adjusted to the prevailing circumstances. If the rose bed is not mulched, if the weather is very hot, if the winds are very dry, more moisture is needed but roses should never stand in water. If possible, roses should be watered from the bottom to prevent fungus diseases on the leaves. If watering from the bottom is impossible, roses should be watered in the morning to allow the leaves to dry before nightfall. If time limits demand that a choice must be made between watering and applying insecticides, fungicides or fertilizer, choose watering.
A professional soil sample provides the most accurate information on which to base
recommendations for soil amendments. Your university extension office will give directions. pH readings from most do-it-yourself kits may give inaccurate information. Soil in this area is mostly clay, so it should be amended with various organic materials such as compost, grass clippings, chopped leaves, well-rotted cow or horse manure to break up the clay. DO NOT USE SAND TO BREAK UP CLAY. CLAY + SAND = CONCRETE. When the pH reading is less than 6.5, the county agent may suggest adding dolomitic limestone; if the soil tests higher than pH 7.5, agricultural sulfur at the rate of two pounds per 100 square feet of soil may be recommended. If making the planting area more rose-friendly is impractical, then raised beds and new soil may solve the problem.
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