By Brenda Viney, Vancouver Rose Society Member
Oh, the May garden. Lots of rain and bugs bring interesting dilemmas for the gardener.
Water isnâ€™t usually a problem for us in May and is actually the best fertilizer in town for our roses. As they love to get about 1â€ (2.5 cm) of water a week, itâ€™s always a good idea to lay down a 2-3â€ (5-7.5cm) mulch over all your garden in springtime. This helps retain soil moisture when the heat of summer is upon us and keeps down the weeds. Good materials include well-rotted steer or horse manure, pig manure, compost, bark chips and mushroom manure (only about every 3 years due to its high pH). The best practice is to alternate a variety of different materials every year.
Unfortunately, living in a rain forest means we get more than our fair share of rain! And this brings along a fungal disease called blackspot. These are black spots that appear on rose leaves, turning the leaves yellow that eventually drop off. The best prevention is buying disease-resistant roses such as any of the Kordes-bred roses or disease-free ones such as the Rugosa roses. If this isnâ€™t an option, check out the various organic â€œfungicidesâ€ available at all Garden Centres such as Saferâ€™s Defender, Sulfur Powder or any other products currently available. Itâ€™s best to spray BEFORE the fungus arrives and continuing every 3 to 4 weeks until late summer.
Andâ€¦what can we say about the variety of bugs found in all gardens! The most common one youâ€™ll find on your roses is the Aphid â€“ little green/grey soft-bodied insects that suck on the new growth and buds. They donâ€™t do a lot of damage, come for about 6 weeks and then leave for awhile until they arrive againâ€¦but the best thing about their arrival is that it sends a signal to the Ladybeetles that thereâ€™s a veritable FEAST awaiting them in your garden and in they swoop to eat many many times their weight in aphids. Mother Nature really is perfect! Another really cool bug is the Leaf Cutter Bee. If you notice perfectly round notches removed from your leaves, itâ€™s the leaf cutter bees taking this nice soft material back to line their nests! They are beneficial insects and do absolutely no harm to your roses. And then thereâ€™s the cuckoo spit â€“ those frothy mounds of white that suddenly appear on plants. Inside the froth is a tiny green froghopper! Again, no damage, just an interesting marvel of nature. What do you do with all of these pests? Take out your hose and wash them all off!