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Fertilizing for hot & heavy rain & lowest salt & trace elements

July 22, 2016
last modified: July 22, 2016

Since Khalid is getting 10.5" of rain in July, and 12.2" of rain in August, I re-post info. in 2013 on Frank Gatto's nursery. His nursery is in WA (cooler & high-rain climate) so Mr. Gatto uses the maximum dose for pots.


I was googling "Healthy roses" and found this blog by Raft Island Roses Owner Frank Gatto with pics. of the most healthy roses! Here's a summary of his tips, most appropriate for acidic soil, cool & rainy PNW area:

"Five gallons per week per rose" is Gatto's advice. "Water deeply," he stresses.

For planting, Gatto mixes 50 percent native soil and 50 percent organic compost or good potting soil and adds a cup each of bone meal and soil sweetener (lime). He also gives established plants a cup of lime in March, for optimal soil pH.

Gatto advises giving roses small but frequent meals, as opposed to large amounts of fertilizer less often. He uses a balanced granular fertilizer with an N-P-K number no higher than 20 (such as 15-15-15), along with a blend of organic meals including alfalfa, cotton seed, fish, blood and kelp. "I give each one a handful (about a half a cup) every three weeks."

Besides his nursery, Frank Gatto has 300 roses in his yard, and 950 roses in his other house. He and his son breed 250 new roses.

Raft Island Rose Nursery's tips for healthy roses

**** From Straw: for my alkaline clay, I give 1/2 cup of lime in rainy spring for dark-green leaves roses, and 1/2 cup of gypsum for pale-leaves .. my roses are smaller own-roots so I use 1/2 the amount of calcium, necessary to make zillion petals.

Instead of Gatto's granular chemical fertilizer of NPK 15-15-15, I use SOLUBLE organic fertilizer NPK 4-3-2 with kelp, plus sulfate of potash every week, along with 1/2 cup organics like Tomato-Tone, or Pennington fish pellets NPK 4-6-6 every 3 weeks .. that's for high-heat & rainy weather.

I went through my camera directory from 2013 to 2016 to delete pics. that occupy space in my PC.

The deepest-color pics were fertilized with cocoa mulch (pH 5.6 and many trace elements), and the year with the most blooms (40+ buds) in hot summer at 90 F .. that's when I did triple-layers of slow-released for trace-elements: cocoa mulch NPK 3-1-4, plus horse manure, plus Lilly for roses NPK 5-8-4 (with chicken manure).

The stingiest year & faded color when I experimented with red-lava and pea-gravel which hardy dissolve on top, plus SOLUBLE sulfate of potash & gypsum.

Rain leaches out trace-elements. When I visited Chicago Botanical Garden in heavy-rain early summer, roses are faded in colors, zero scents. I hope to top all my roses with alfalfa hay & 1/2 cup of Tomato Tone ... before more rain this weekend.

Tomato Tone has NPK 3-4-6 versus Rose Tone at NPK 4-3-2. Lily Miller for roses NPK 5-8-4 is another option.

Ingredients in Lilly Miller for roses: Chicken manure, alfalfa meal, ammonium sulfate, ammonium phosphate, sulfate of potash, calcium and sodium borate, Ferrous, Manganese and zinc oxides, sodium molybdate. NPK 5-8-4, with 4% calcium, 4% sulfur, and 0.1% iron. *** good for pots, since pots leach out nitrogen most.

Here's the ingredients in RoseTone: Feather meal, chicken manure, cocoa meal, bone meal, aflafa meal, green sand, humates, sulfate of potash, plus beneficial bacteria. NPK 4-3-2. Tomato tone at NPK 3-4-6 has the same ingredient, but more of potassium via greensand, plus more phosphorus for alkaline clay.

Pennington Alaska NPK 4-6-6 has blood meal, alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, sulfate of potash, and kelp meal .. this produces the most blooms and least burning, perhaps due to zero chicken-manure. Sold on Amazon for $9 per 3 lb, more expensive than Rose-tone:

Pennington fish & kelp NPK 4-6-6 on Amazon

Chicken manure is hot and burns plants in high heat. An Amazon customer said this best about Tomato Tone NPK 3-4-6 with chicken manure: "This organic fertilizer works very well with my Tomatoes, more fruit and bigger but it does burn every vegetable that I tried using this fertilizer." Agree, it does burn if too much is put in the planting hole for roses.

Here in Chicagoland it was 80% humidity July 21, then rained all night. Yesterday I put dolomitic lime on the dark-green leaves roses, and gypsum on the pale-leaves roses. If I don't do that, then rain leaches out calcium & magnesium, and roses get less petals.

Rain leaches out potassium big-time, esp. in pots. So I sprinkled sulfate of potash on the pale-leave roses, and put red-lava-rock on the dark-green leaves roses. Heavy-rain climate require lots more fertilizer. I usually put chicken manure before a heavy rain, but Menards stop selling that cheap, will have to buy that from Walmart.

Below roses were fertilized with cheap Chickity-doo-doo .. smaller blooms & decent color. I didn't use high potassium red-lava-rock back then.

Comments (4)

  • Valrose FL Zone 8b

    I use poultry ( chickens and guineas) manure straight from the concrete floor of my poultry house. It is mixed with chicken feed, chickens are very messy eaters. I applied a small scoop (about a 2 tablespoons) per plant on top of the mulch, and then I water it in. I am careful to keep it of the stem of the plants. I have never had trouble with burning from the manure. I don't know about it's salt content, but my plants seem to love it, even in the heat of the summer.

    strawchicago thanked Valrose FL Zone 8b
  • strawchicago

    Thank you, Val, excellent info about the dose (2 Tablespoon) .. is your soil sandy/loamy ? Sandy soil leaches out salt easier than clay (retains salt very well). Seaweed from CA (alkaline clay) raises her own-chicken, she dilutes her fresh-poo with water 1st, before applying.

    Seaweed has 11 inch. of rain, compared to Newberry, Florida of 47.33 of rain.

    Sulfate of potash has salt-index of 43, at half of salt-index of high-nitrogen chicken manure. I put 1 teaspoon sulfate of potash per small own-root rose. The roses in loamy potting soil (MG-moisture control) .. didn't mind. But the roses in my dense & heavy & sticky clay wilted in hot sun, despite my watering in. For that reason I don't apply fertilizer in clay, unless it's all-night, or all-day rain right after application.

    When the deer ate all the leaves off my own-root Firefighter rose in June 2013, I spread 1/3 cup of dried-chicken manure NPK 5-3-2 around the bush .. and watered that in .. but we didn't get rain for over 2 weeks in June, and that burnt some of its roots, it didn't survive winter.

    The late rosarian Karl Bapst, zone 5a, also warned folks about less granular fertilizer in spring since the newly-grown feeder roots is so tiny, thus too much granular fertilizer will burn it. Zone 5a own-roots are so small, with winter below -20 killed all the feeder-roots, and new-growth is very tiny.

  • Valrose FL Zone 8b

    My soil is very sandy. I amend it by topping it with a layer 4" of composted wood debris, on top of that I have a 4" layer of uncomposted wood debris which I replenish during the season. The fresh poultry manure that I am using is at least half "laying crumbles", which is a chicken food formulate for hens. It may provide as much benefit as the chicken manure. I am careful with the fresh manure because I do not want to burn the plants with the "hot" nitrogen.

    This is a link on poultry manure from University of Florida. It says that the phosphorous content in poultry manure is so high that it should be determining factor in application instead of nitrogen, I did not know this until I started doing some research for answer. This is of concern to me because I have trouble with iron deficiency in some of my rose plants and maybe it is the phosphorous that is contributing to my iron problems.

    strawchicago thanked Valrose FL Zone 8b
  • strawchicago

    The above show the effect of acid-rain on new leaf of Tchaikosky in partial shade: wilting of youngest leaf. I immediately apply dolomitic lime, rain leaches out both calcium and magnesium.

    The above pic. shows the wilting & leaves-got-thinner effect of acid-rain on Veteran's Honor in a pot. I immediately topped the pot with alkaline minerals: pea-gravel and red-lava. Since it's a tiny own-root, it can't handle dolomitic lime which shoots up pH too drastically.

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