The Spring That Sprung by Bill Blok
We usually have talked about March as the month that comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb. This year there were not the usually lion-like snow storms, but lots of warm weather of record breaking proportions. Lots of tornadoes in the south, and a few in eastern Michigan, but otherwise we had mostly record breaking tropical weather.
Usually we wait until the weather warms in early April to remove our rose cones, but this time the weather was warm already in early March. When the weatherman predicts frost-free temperatures in the coming 7 or 8 days, I take that as a signal to remove our rose cones. This year that happened during the first full week of March, but I did not have the faith to act upon it. The first Monday after our March 17 District Convention, I started removing our cones, and finished it on March 21. Most of the cone covered roses had green shoots of 2 or more inches long.
Pruning roses that are covered with new growth is no picnic. It is hard to see all the black stains on the canes that signal the likelihood of more dieback in the near future. It also takes a little more courage to cut back more new growth to improve the symmetry and openness of the rose bush.
Seven custom budded maidens (unnamed hybrids) arrived from Wisconsin Roses on March 27. They were promptly planted. Unfortunately three new named rose maidens and 50 rootstock seedling that were ordered in October did not arrive. My e-mail order apparently was misplaced. Steve will check to see if he still has stock in those items.
After the mild to hot weather we enjoyed in early March, the weather in the last week and a half of March turned cool to downright chilly. As of the end of March we avoided any hard freezes, but we did suffer 3 or 4 frosty nights. Some good rains were welcome, and the lawns really greened up.
I finished pruning our rose beds on April 2. That is, I think I am finished. When you have as many bushes as we have, it is not uncommon to find a bush or two that were overlooked in the first go over. When our weather cooled off during the last 10 days of March, we had 3 or 4 nights where we had light frosts of between 30 and 32 degrees, but we saw no obvious signs of frost damage on the roses. We hope that damage free nights may continue.
Although we usually apply crabgrass preventer fertilizer to our lawns in mid April, we applied most of our preventer in mid to late March. It occurred to me that, though it was early, with the record breaking warm weather in March, we needed to get it down before the warm soil germinated the crabgrass seed. I still had a bag ot the preventer fertilizer left from the first application, and I applied it during the 1st week of April. Whether it is necessary for the crabgrass prevention, I don’t know, but at least the fertilizer portion was useful for the fast growing grass.
When I am finished pruning our roses, the next pressing need is to apply fertilizer to our rose beds. Formerly I used the Schultz’s time release fertilizers that were commonly sold in the 4 lb. boxes for around $2 per box. Unfortunately, it is not being sold that way any more. Osmocote or similar coated commercial time release fertilizers are still available, but at 2 or 3 dollars per pound. The result is that we have been using balanced non-coated fertilizers in recent years. This year we are using 19-19-19. I spread a 7 or 8 ounce tumbler of fertilizer around 3 or 4 large rose bushes. I use pH paper to test the acidity of my soil. If my pH is near 6 or below, I apply about the same volume of pulverized limestone to these same bushes. Above a pH of 6 and below a pH of 7, is supposed to be about ideal for roses. I will hope to repeat the above fertilizer application in mid May, possibly after our bark mulch is
applied to the rose beds.
Although we usually wait until mid May to start our fungus preventive sprays to our roses, very likely we will need to apply a good fungicide by May 1, since the fungus spores got an early start this spring. If you wish to avoid paying a small fortune for a lifetime supply of Banner Maxx spray, the less expensive fungicides such as Bayer Rose Disease Control, and Spectricide Immunox Disease Control spray is still being sold in local garden centers for between $12, and $15 for a season’s supply for most rosarians.
The Spring That Sprung by Bill Blok