Welcome back to part 2 of our mini series on scorched blooms! Last time (www.oneloveroseandgardens.com/post/what-s-up-with-my-blooms-scorching) we talked about the importance of water, and more importantly, HOW you are doing your watering being one of the main factors in scorched blooms. Let's face it, it's hard to stand out in the blistering heat and do your watering correctly. It just is. Nobody wants to do it. You are not alone! (Again, drip systems are life savers. Just sayin'!) It is of utmost importance to ensure your roses are getting proper water. Always water directly at the base of the plant to help prevent blackspot, and it is preferred to water early mornings just in case some splashes up on the leaves. Ensure that you are deeply saturating the root zone and letting it soak down deep into the ground. Experts say roses like 2-3 inches of water a week, which roughly equates to about 5 gallons of water a week, per rose! Now you see why just wetting the top layer of soil doesn't do it for them. Roses in pots appreciate even a little extra over that 2-3 inches, since the soil retains less water and the roots can't search for it in the same way they could in the ground.
(Side note: For those of you who grow your roses in pots, a good way to gauge if you are giving your rose enough water is to let the water "fill up" the pot at least an inch every time you water.)
Part 2: Soil and Amendments
In part two of our mini series, we will explore soil, and how the soil you have can affect your rose blooms. This is a wide, and probably the most varied subject that affects your blooms. Soil Ph, soil type, and soil content all have a drastic impact on your plant.
First and foremost, I encourage you to take a sample of your soil and get it analyzed through your local extension office. This is perhaps the easiest way to know exactly what your soil needs to be "ideal" for your plants. It will tell you everything you need to know, and generally they will recommend the proper amendments to fix your soil's issues (including nutrient deficiencies, Ph issues, and soil content.)
In this part of our miniseries, we will talk mainly about your soil type. I will also cover soil in pots, as well as do's and don't's and some specifics for our area (DFW Metroplex). Don't worry, if you are not in our area, I recommend finding a local garden center (not a big box store or chain store). Generally speaking, you should be able to find someone there that is familiar with the native soil in your area, and you can apply some simple steps and yearly maintenance to help fix your soil.
Ideal soil is generally considered "loamy soil". What is loamy soil? It's generally an equal mix of sand, clay, and organic matter. What does loam feel like? Imagine going into the forest and digging your hands in the dirt. It's soft, crumbly, and can hold a shape but it doesn't stay stuck together. Loam is an ideal soil because it has three components that I have already mentioned.
-Clay: good at holding nutrients
-Sand: good for drainage
-Organic material: good for moisture regulation and nutrient retention.
Here in our area, we typically have very dense clay soil. Moisture tends to run off easily or pool in low spots and drown plants. Plant roots typically have a hard time breaking through the dense soil and can often suffocate due to the lack of aeration.
You might ask, "Well, how do I fix my soil?" The easiest way to improve clay soil is by adding organic matter. Compost and mulch both serve this purpose very well. Mulch should be used exclusively on the top of the soil surface. Compost can be mixed into the soil when planting, as well as laid on top of the soil.
*It is VERY important when gardening in clay soil that you do NOT remove all of the clay and simply replace all of it with good soil. When it rains, you have simply created a pot with no drainage hole. Water will flood the hole and drown your plant.*
When combining compost with the native clay soil in your planting holes, make sure you do no more than half and half. You want your plant's roots to be accustomed to some clay, so they can break through the sides of the hole eventually. Organic matter slowly breaks down into the soil, and loosens the clay. After a few seasons of adding these, you will have drastically improved soil! You can also add gypsum into the planting hole, or underneath your compost and mulch layer. I do not recommend adding shale as shale absorbs and holds lots of water, and water will sit on clay soil for a very long time and you chance drowning your plant. (Same with water beads in potting soil!)
For those with sandy soil, the process is much the same! Adding organic matter helps the sand retain moisture and nutrients, which are the two biggest factors when dealing with sandy soil. In sandy soil, you will likely need to water more frequently, and it is a good idea to give your plants regular water soluble fertilizer to ensure they're getting enough nutrients. We use organic Fish Fertilizer and organic MorBloom, by the brand Alaska. You can also use liquid kelp/seaweed, Garrett's Juice, and any other water soluble fertilizer. If you are using a synthetic fertilizer, make sure to carefully follow the instructions, so you do not burn your plant. Fertilizer burns are not an issue with most organic fertilizers.
"Ok, so now I know what type of soil I have. What in the world does this have to do with my rose blooms burning?" Well, it has a lot to do with it. Soil type determines moisture levels and retention, which ties back to part one. It also determines nutrients and other fun stuff in the soil, which will tie into part three. Obviously, if you have heavy clay soil, you want to make sure you aren't drowning your plants, but you also want to make sure there is enough organic matter in the soil to hold onto the moisture before it runs right off. With sand, you want to ensure your rose is HOLDING the moisture before it runs right through the soil, by also using organic matter. See how organic matter is the key to proper soil moisture? You can deep water all you want, but if it runs right off the plant or it doesn't stick around in the soil long enough for your plant to absorb it, there's not much of a point. Organic matter is incredibly important for your plants. Maybe I should rename this segment "Just add compost! It'll probably fix it."
As promised, I will now touch on the subject for you who grow in pots! You have it on the easy side. Potting soil is naturally made to mimic ideal soil, while having the ideal drainage and loftiness to ensure your plants don't drown. Make sure you do not have water beads in your soil unless your plant wants extremely moist soil! Roses like to dry out a bit between deep waterings. If you get a heavy rain, the water beads can drown your plant. The trick with pots is ensuring that you are watering often enough, and you are frequently refreshing the soil with nutrients. Water can carry off the nutrients from your plants, so in a pot you want to be topping off with some compost and doing some granular fertilizer every few months (again, any brand is fine. We personally use Espoma RoseTone or PlantTone because organic fertilizers don't burn your plants, even if you accidentally do too much.) We will touch on fertilizers and the chemical makeup of your soil, and how that affects your roses blooms in the next segment of our three part series.