Fall rose care is part preparation for winter and part continuing on from what you did in summer. If you stop dead-heading the blooms, hips will form for your fall pleasure, but then you need to cut some of the high stems back a little to stop the wind from snapping them or the snow from bending and damaging them.
Fall rose care is cleaning the beds and mounding the mulch and it is a time to enjoy the late blooms, sometimes as late as Christmas, in some areas!
During September and October we should be concerned with, or at least should be thinking about, how we are going to prepare our rose beds for winter and what rose garden activities we should attend to before it gets too late in the year.
It is tempting to put our spray equipment away about this time of year, especially after the last rose show is over, Labor Day is history and children head back to school. We should, however, continue our regular spray program until there is clear evidence that our roses are planning their vacation and appear to be closing up shop.
This occurs most often in November or early December, however, blooms in December are not unheard of. We should note any curling and dropping of leaves and some thickening and color change in rose hips which we have left to mature after the middle of October. Continue spraying regularly until these events occur.
From the beginning of September on you will notice, if you haven't already, that there is an accumulation of spent petals and leaves on the ground around the rose plants. The leaves will be of various colors, some yellow, some brown and curling and some will probably show evidence of blackspot which is at its highest incidence as we approach Fall.
This debris harbors the spores of blackspot and mildew and should be removed and discarded. Don't put it on your mulch pile, let the garbage collector carry it away. Try to keep the ground or mulch in your rose beds free of weeds and rose litter. It is easier to keep up with the litter production, I have found, than to do it all at once. A small hand rake or a dowel with a sharpened nail in the end facilitates this.
Some Rosarians prefer to plant new roses in the Spring. Some, however, think that a new rose bush planted in the Fall has a head start on one planted in the spring. This is true, provided the new roses survives the winter.
If you have not tried Fall planting, it's worth a try. First, you must select varieties from a nursery that ships in the fall, usually bare-root. This means, the plants may arrive after the middle of December. I've had them arrive in late November.
If you have plants on order, be sure you have a place to put them when they arrive. New plant holes should be prepared in advance and given some time to settle.
If you are replacing a rose, there is a question as to whether to re-use the mixture from the hole or to discard it and prepare all new material. If the rose being replaced has done well you might risk using the old mix. If it has done poorly and that is the reason you are replacing the rose, I would suggest you prepare a new mixture.
The new mixture should contain compost, if you have it; good top soil. If you lack compost, peat moss may be substituted. Do not add a fertilizer containing nitrogen to the mixture. A cup of Super phosphate or bone meal will help form a new feeder root system for your new rose, but nitrogen can be injurious.
Most importantly, when your new rose is planted (in accordance with nursery instructions), mound the new canes with soil to about ten inches, forming an inverted cone to protect the new canes from blowing and drying winds and the bitter cold which will surely come. This cone of soil should remain in place until Spring when it is removed a little at a time as the surrounding air temperature increases.
Serious pruning is not recommended to occur until early spring. The pruning done in the fall of the year, is simply to keep long canes from whipping around in the wind and loosening the mulch or soil around the crown of the plant and thus exposing it unnecessarily to frigid cold temperatures and winds. Cut back the canes to about waist high and do not apply a sealer to the canes. (The danger of boring insects is pretty much behind us by September.)
Fall Rose Care.....clean up, re-plant and prepare for winter!
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