To maintain soil fertility on established Rose beds, two distinct operations are carried out:
(a) Mulching.
(b) The application of fertilisers as top dressings.

A mulch is a layer of organic matter, 2-3 in. thick, which is spread over the soil about the middle of Aug., in order to conserve soil moisture. It may consist of leaf soil, rotted compost, spent hops or mushroom compost, or well rotted straw. Old farmyard manure makes an excellent mulch for Roses as it not only adds organic matter to the soil but provides the three major plant nutrientsnitrogen, potash and phosphate. These three are needed in larger amounts than most elements, and, provided that regular mulching is carried out, are the only ones which need be applied separately as extras.

There are many proprietary fertilisers, which must always be used strictly according to the maker's instructions. The golden rule with artificial fertilisers is to use them 'little and often'. The number of times feeding is carried out will depend on the natural fertility of the soil and the condition of the plants, but it is usual to apply the first top dressing just before mulching. A second feed may be given in early Nov. and a third and final one in January.

If you prefer to prepare your own fertiliser, the following may be mixed and applied at 4 oz. to the sq. yd.:
2 parts by weight superphosphate of lime
1 part by weight sulphate of potash
1 part

by weight sulphate of ammonia

However, most proprietary rose foods contain a trace element balance, as well as these ingredients.

When farmyard manure is used for mulching it should be necessary to apply only one top dressing of fertiliser towards the end of January.
Plant nutrients in very dilute solutions can be absorbed into plants via their foliage and this fact has given rise to the cultural operation known as 'foliar feeding'. The form of the chemicals does not matter a great deal provided that two points are borne in mind:
a) The salts must be completely soluble in water.
b) The solution must be very dilute, i.e. not more than 2 teaspoons salts to 1 gallon water.

There are several reliable brands of 'liquid manure' concentrates available that contain a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, plus all essential trace elements.

In some soils (particularly those with a high pH) or containing much lime, Rose bushes occasionally develop so-called trace element deficiences. Chlorosis, or inter-veinal yellowing of the leaves, is a typical symptom, due to the plants being unable to obtain sufficient iron, manganese or magnesium or possibly all three. These elements may be present in the soil but are rendered unavailable to the plant because they are in an insoluble form. Hence it is little use applying them as fertilisers as these too immediately become insoluble.

It is possible to purchase complex substances known as Chelates or Sequestrenes to overcome this problem. These contain the trace elements in question, are watered on to the soil, and will soon enable the plant to recover its green leaves and healthy growth.

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