A lot of people with organic gardens ask how to grow roses organically. The answer is often – with difficulty. While they are some of the most beautiful and traditional of all garden flowers, roses are not easy to grow in an organic garden. They suffer from so many pests and diseases that there is always a temptation to reach for chemical solutions. So in this article we will look at how to grow roses the organic way – without giving in to those temptations.
The first point is to start out with a hardy variety of roses if possible – that is, if you do not already have your roses growing in your garden. This means going for varieties that are closer to the wild rose and less hybridized, such as rugosa, gallica and ramblers with small flowers. The German company Kordes sells hardy varieties of rose that will do well in organic gardens without any spraying.
This may be bad news if you were imagining your garden full of long-stemmed tea roses with huge blooms, but if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense to go for the older varieties. Just like pedigree animals, if plants are selectively bred for their appearance they can start to have weaknesses. The principle of an organic garden is to take a step back from our human desire to control nature to that extent.
Besides, the smaller flowers can be beautiful too, especially if you deadhead them regularly so that flowers keep on and on coming.
Assuming that you have chosen your roses, let’s now consider how to grow roses organically when those darn pests appear. First, it is better to plant your rose bushes in different places around the garden instead of having a dedicated rose garden where they are all together. This can prevent diseases such as black spot spreading from one plant to the next.
Another important part of disease prevention when you are considering how to grow roses is the method of pruning. It is very important to cut stems cleanly, on a diagonal, when pruning. A straight cut edge or a ragged edge to the stem allows water to collect. Fungal infections will settle and thrive in the damp conditions and invade the plant.
If your roses still suffer from fungal infections or black spot, you can buy organic sprays for these diseases. However, they are not always the instant solution that chemical sprays will tempt you with. It is better to help your plants to avoid succumbing to the disease in the first place.
Apart from disease, roses have insect pests such as aphids. If you are unlucky, aphids can completely infest a rose bush. The best way to deal with them organically is to introduce a predator such as ladybugs (ladybirds) into your garden. You can buy a ladybug farm and a feeder so that they stay – although you should not feed them too well, or they will not need to go eating your aphids!
It is also a good idea to have small flowering plants and herbaceous perennials around your roses. This will create a barrier to prevent fungal spores blowing up from the soil onto the leaves of the roses.
Plants that are in flower in late spring and early summer will attract insects that feed on both nectar and aphids, providing another line of defense against the little green monsters. Nasturtiums will attract aphids away from your roses, while plants of the allium family (onions, leeks, garlic) will repel nematodes. Rosemary, thyme and geranium will attract beneficial insects.
If you let at least one of your rose bushes go to hips instead of deadheading, you will find that birds are attracted to the hips. The birds will be another line of defense that can help you with how to grow roses successfully in an organic garden.