Healthy soil, happy worms, lovely roses
There are several things vital to a healthy plant. Alongside sunlight, food, water and a healthy ‘soil food web’ are the micro-organisms and beneficial fungi which not only live in the soil but are also ‘in’ and ‘surrounding’ a plant. Earthworms are also vital to healthy soil and plants. If earthworms are lacking, you have a problem. Gardeners cannot hope to have a really healthy garden (soil) unless there are good worm populations.
This applies to food crops and to having great roses.
First, let’s look at disease. Plant diseases are nature’s garbage removers, assisting in the decomposing of plant material that has done its time, and converting it back to organic food for other plants to live on.
Plants that become weakened for some reason are reasonably susceptible to diseases. Pests also tend to home in on weaker plants rather than on the strong healthy ones.
So, what can you do to grow healthy roses? The same as for promoting the health of other garden plants.
Firstly, stop using chemical fertilisers and sprays.
Chemically made fertilisers knock back soil life including resident worms. Instead, use organic compost and mulches from a garden centre that contain animal manures, not ones made from green wastes. Roses die if they come in contact with compost made from herbicide-affected material.
Consumer trials several years ago showed that sheep manure pellets were the best all-round garden fertiliser. Other products that are beneficial to the soil include blood and bone, seaweeds, gypsum, garden lime, dolomite and any other animal manures.
Herbicides also knock back soil life and can have long-term residues. Weedkillers containing glyphosate, the most used chemical in agriculture, not only damage the soil, but are now listed as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organisation.
Fungicides may control some diseases but they also kill the beneficial fungi that plants need for good health.
Adopting this approach will help restore and feed the soil life of your garden, and there are products such as Magic Botanic Liquid & Mycorrcin which can assist in repairing the damage done by chemicals.
To build up the health of depleted soil can take a season or two. During this time there is the need to protect plants from diseases and pests without using chemical solutions that are going to affect the soil life.
Neem tree oil is a way of controlling these pests.
Neem oil also tends to reduce the problem of black spot, although black spot along with diseases such as rust, powdery mildew and botrytis can be controlled by sulphur sprays.
A film of sulphur over the foliage every 14 days with Raingard added, will give good external protection. The alternative is to spray with potassium permanganate, or Condy’s crystals.
Copper is best for treating blights, downy mildew and bacterial diseases, as well as fruit tree diseases. For internal protection, boost the plant’s immune system with once-amonth-only applications of Perkfection Supa.
The best way to increase the number of worms in the garden is to buy them by the bag. Put some into a worm farm and seed the rest into the garden.
Do this by placing shredded wet newspaper and kitchen scraps into a hole in the soil. Place a handful of worms into the hole and cover them over with wet paper and compost. Carry out in each major garden plot such as rose beds and vegetable gardens. To keep the worms happy and multiplying, mulch the gardens a couple of times a year with wet newspapers covered with animalbased compost or mulching material.
It is also important for the health of both worms and soil life not to water gardens with chlorinated tap water. Put a 10-micron carbon bonded filter on your garden tap to remove the chemical from the water.
Roses also need a certain amount of magnesium, potassium and trace elements. These are easiest to apply as Rok Solid plus Fruit and Flower Power. The small amounts required will not affect the soil life while benefiting your roses.
A two-weekly spray of Mycorrcin, MBL & Wally’s Neem Tree Oil, adding Perkfection Supa to the mix at the lesser rate listed on the label every second spray (ie once a month), should be part of a healthy plant care programme.
The reward will be perfectly shaped roses, lush green foliage and a mild to heady perfume.
A beautiful example of ‘Paddy Stephens’, voted by NZ Rose Society rosarians in the NZ Rose Review as the top favourite rose in New Zealand for 11 years running. With proper care, there’s no reason why local rose growers shouldn’t achieve high quality blooms.