Golden Holstein, Photo By: Irene Hannestad
The use of rose fertilizers ultimately comes down to what you want from your roses. The fundamental difference between synthetic fertilizers and those which are organic is that synthetics feed the plant while organics feed the soil which in turn feeds the plant. Knowing this and knowing what you want from your roses determines which way you want to proceed.
Synthetic fertilizers are high in soluble nitrates - the nitrogen form used directly by the plant. Using these fertilizers, then, will create an immediate uptake of this nitrogen, thus creating a burst of fast growth, and producing a plethora of plant-sucking rose pests like aphids, thrips, et al. which are attracted to this nitrogen and tender new growth. The advantage to using soluble nitrates as fertilizers is that you can control when you want your roses to bloom, how long you want the stems to grow, and a host of other things that are of benefit to the rosarian who wants to exhibit his or her roses at a specified time.
I realized that lilies and sweet peas were going to be relatively easy to grow. Lilies were exceptionally hardy, just plunk them into the ground and they would succeed. Sweet peas could be planted in early spring (zone 8) and they would sprout in a matter of weeks. And roses, well.digging a hole and putting them in was simple enough. What more would they need?
On the down side, it requires you to apply more pesticides to control the onslaught of pest insects, it creates excessive growth at times when freezing temperatures may cause die-back, it leaves undesirable salts in the soil, it shortens the life of the rose, and it bypasses The Nitrogen Cycle - the way Nature intended to fertilize plants - thus reducing microbial activity in the soil which is eventually detrimental to the garden as a whole.
It is for these drawbacks that I no longer use synthetic fertilizers in my rose fertilization program, although I did for almost 25 years before I learned my lessons. Many of the roses I grow have been found thriving at abandoned grave yards and home sites with no supplemental fertilization of any kind. Thus, I prefer to blend organic materials necessary to sustain rose growth over a period of years. This blend is adapted for my garden, and may not be what is needed in yours or others. (I know this blend is good for my garden because I perform regular soil tests - something I highly recommend before you purchase or blend your own rose fertilizer.)CONTINUE››