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Gardening by Judith Adam The home garden can be a calming sanctuary in calamitous times. Take this opportunity to focus on what gives the most pleasure – lush roses blooming repeatedly through the season; and the unmatched flavour of summer, a sun-warmed tomato. Feeding roses Roses have been with us since prehistoric times and, after such a long association, it’s surprising that we don’t understand them better. Roses are hungry plants − they require nutrient-rich meals to produce the number and quality of blooms that we want to see. Without supplemental fertilizer, most garden roses produce a flush of flowers for three to four weeks in early summer, and then settle down to producing a modest show in late summer. But with just a few nutritious feed- ings, they can be blooming near non-stop for 16 weeks, from early June to at least the end of September. Many antique roses of the 19 th century (such as ‘Tour de Malakoff ’ and ‘Queen of Denmark’) are once-blooming, putting on one big show in early summer. However, modern roses (both shrub form and climbers) will respond to fertilizing and produce bumper crops of blossoms through the full growing season. When to feed roses? Wait until the plant is actively growing and making new foliage in mid-May, then give the recommendedmeas- ure of fertilizer on a commercial package. If a rose plant is to use the food you provide, it must have several new sprigs with fully open leaves. Foliage is the plant factory that uses nutrients, combining them with water and sunlight tomanufacture carbohydrate energy, resulting in flowers. If fertilizer is applied before leaves have sprouted in early spring, the plant may experience shock and fail to produce spring buds. For subsequent feeding, as the first flush of blossoms fades, quickly snip the finished flower heads off to prevent seeds from form- ing. Then apply a second feeding of fertilizer in early July to stimulate a second flush of summer blooms. In most Canadian regions, there won’t be enough warm growing days left to provide a third fertilizer application. But continue snipping off spent flowers and apply a top dressing of composted manure in August…that may be enough to bring out some autumn blooms. What to feed roses? For top performance, a combination of packaged commercial rose food and supplemental organic elements will provide outstanding results. The commer- cial fertilizer provides basic plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) in an appropriate balance to produce maximum blooms. The supplemental organic materials contain essential trace elements that promote plant health, winter hardiness and superior blooms − larger buds, enhanced colour and fragrance. The organic materials are non-burning and can be combined with the commercial fertilizer applications. Garden centres and online seed catalogues are good places to look for organic fertilizer materials. Among the best are feather meal, alfalfa pellets and earthworm castings (dig them lightly into the soil surrounding shrub’s roots); and kelp spray, a water-soluble concentrate (mixed in a watering can) to drench foliage. A trick upon which many rosarians rely is applying one-half cup of Epsom salts (magne- sium sulfate and sulphur) around each shrub, digging it in lightly. This will increase the plant size by stimulating basal wood growth (canes growing from the plant crown), and an additional bounty of blossoms. 42 | www. snowbirds .org