Photo Courtesy of Carol Sharpe


May in the Garretts' Garden

This spring has certainly been one to remember!  With the pandemic situation, we have all had the opportunity to spend more time at home.  Hopefully, you have taken advantage of this opportunity to get out in the garden. 

May is an exciting time in the rose garden as we get to enjoy our first big bloom cycle of the season.  In order for the blooms to have good substance, we need to keep our roses well watered.  However, this year Mother Nature has provided plenty of moisture.  Be aware that windy days can dry out your plants quicker than you might think, so keep an eye on that.  The roses need at least an inch per week.  Remember, water is the key ingredient that makes everything you do to your plants work. 

It takes a lot of energy for our plants to produce that first big bloom cycle, so during the early part of May, we like to give our plants a boost with a chemical fertilizer.  Nothing fancy here, just use a well balanced fertilizer such as  12-6-6, 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 with trace elements.  Make sure your soil is moist, and sprinkle roughly a ¼ cup of fertilizer evenly around each plant.  Lightly scratch the fertilizer into the soil and then water well.  If you simply apply fertilizer and don’t water, you are likely to suffer some plant damage due to nitrogen burn.  Water is the key to getting the fertilizer to the root system where the plant can take it in and use it to grow strong and produce beautiful blooms.  For an extra boost, about mid-month you can apply your favorite liquid fertilizer.  

If you have roses that are not disease resistant, you will need to have a spray program focusing on preventing disease, particularly blackspot.  Remember, disease is always easier to prevent than cure!  There are plenty of products on the market for you to consider using.  We recommend that you look for the Spray Formulations charts found elsewhere on this site.  These charts also contain information about “Mode of Activity.”  To get the best results, we recommend alternating at least two products with a different “Mode of Activity” on a weekly basis.  We suggest you print a copy of the chart for small gardens and take it with you when you go shopping for pesticides.  Remember to always read the label on any pesticide you choose to use.

For insects, we recommend the integrated pest management approach, which basically says you don’t spray for insects until they are likely to be present.  Early in the month your focus should be on aphids.  They are the small green insects that cluster around your newly forming buds.  If possible, blast them off your buds with a sharp spray of water.  Otherwise, you can use almost any good garden insecticide to take care of them.  Later in the month, thrips can attack your blooms as they are just opening.  They are so small that you can barely see them.  They suck juices from the blooms, thus leaving a brown, unsightly edge.  They are difficult to control.  The best approach is to begin treating for them as soon as you begin seeing buds forming in your garden and continue through the first bloom cycle.  We recommend that you shop for an insecticide that has Spinosad as the active ingredient.  There are several on the market and available locally. 

As the weather heats up, we are likely to start having spider mites visit our roses.  They attack the undersides of your foliage and as a result the leaves will turn lighter in color.  The best approach for spider mites is to wash the undersides of your roses with a sharp spray of water.  Do this as early as the conditions are right for mites and you should be able to control them pretty easily. 

When considering using any insecticides, make sure you properly identify the enemy.  Don’t kill everything in the garden when you only have aphids!      

May is also when we celebrate Mother’s Day.  Why not consider purchasing a new rose bush for that special person on your list.  After all, a bush will provide blooms that can be enjoyed all summer long and even well into the fall.  Many local nurseries still have a nice selection available, so check it out. 

If you have any questions, please visit the Ask the Experts link and send us your questions.  We’ll respond in a timely fashion.  Remember, the only dumb question is the one not asked.