In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
April, 2005
Regional Report

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Roses at the Mesa (AZ) Community College AARS Test Garden are blooming their heads off.

Roses Bloom in the Desert

A friend of mine is buying a house with a half dozen rose bushes in the yard. He has a brown thumb and moaned that roses would be trouble to grow here. I explained that about 40 percent of the shrubs sold in the U.S. are grown in Phoenix's west valley, and that with a bit of knowledge and care, roses will thrive in the low desert.

In our normally dry conditions, roses don't suffer from the various ailments, such as black spot, that plague more humid parts of the country. Even though this year's abnormally wet winter seems to have provided a bumper crop of thrips and powdery mildew, rose blooms have been glorious. And aphids always seem to find the tender new growth on roses, regardless of the weather conditions.

A Little Care Goes A Long Way
Gardeners who exhibit in rose shows want perfection, so they usually spray for these problems, but average home gardeners don't have to be so demanding. Your best bet is to keep bushes healthy with effective watering and fertilizing. Healthy plants are better able to fend off pests and disease. Also, spray off the shrubs several times a week with a strong blast of water from the hose. This controls aphids and powdery mildew, but doesn't harm the beneficial insects that consume aphids, thrips, and spider mites.

At this time of year, roses need to be watered twice per week, increasing to three times if temperatures are high or if conditions are windy. Plants can be desiccated in just a day if it's windy. Whatever type of irrigation you have, allow water to soak at least 2 feet deep. Layer 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch around the bushes. It will maintain soil moisture and add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. Another friend who grows roses recycles buckets of coffee grounds from "that coffee place" around her roses and then puts heavier chipped matter on top of that. Coffee grounds add some nitrogen and decompose fairly quickly because they are small and moist.

Roses need regular feeding. Use a product formulated for roses or flowering plants according to package instructions. Scratch granular fertilizers lightly into the soil and water immediately after application. Liquid fertilizer can be applied every two weeks during this peak bloom season.

Be sure to get out to the rose demonstration gardens in your area to view spring blooms!


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