With autumn fast approaching it seems the rose garden chores are coming to an end. Winter isnít here yet though, and the time to be thinking about autumn cleanup in your rose garden is now. A few simple chores completed before the weather cools will make your roses happy throughout their dormant months.
Since the effects of most fertilizers last for several months, you should have stopped fertilizing around August. This of course depends on the first frost date for your area, but generally August is a good time to put the fertilizer away until next spring. Providing your roses with fertilizer late in the summer will cause them to continue putting out new growth into the fall when they should be hardening off and preparing to go dormant for the winter.
Roses are less likely to have disease and pest issues when their beds are kept clean. Rake up any dropped leaves or blooms. Annoying pests and diseases love to overwinter in your mulch and soil. If youíve had difficultly with any of these issues this year, consider raking up and disposing of your old mulch after your roses are dormant. Applying a fresh mulch layer, with the old mulch removed, will help prevent any problems from waiting out the winter only to reappear in the spring.
Most roses will settle into fall happily if allowed to form rose hips. This sends a signal to the plant to stop flowering and prepare for winter rest. Leaving the rose hips on the plant allows your rose to go to seed, finishing its yearly cycle. This will encourage your rose to stop growing and get it ready for the colder weather.
Once your roses appear dormant you donít need to prune excessively. If your area becomes extremely cold, generally the uppermost Northern states, there are additional steps for cold protection which Iíll discuss in next weekís article. For the rest of us, the pruning you do depends on the individual rose. With the large climbers in my Virginia garden, Iím going to thin out any crossing canes and then just make sure theyíre securely attached to their climbing structure. Your goal should be to prevent damage from rubbing canes and to thin, shorten or secure extremely large bushes that may rock in the wind causing root damage. You can accomplish this by leaving the bush alone, trimming it back or securing it to a structure depending on the individual plant, the situation and your preferences.
Preparation for winter in your rose garden can be easily accomplished by planning ahead. Scheduling one or two tasks per week will ensure you get the job done easily. Start planning your fall and winter cleanup today and your roses will thank you next spring.