Good Earth ROSE Committee
Responsible, Organic, Simple, Earth-friendly
by Jack Shoultz
Originally published in American Rose, January 2007
The "Good Earth R.O.S.E. Committee" is formed to become a central point in obtaining and disseminating information on techniques for growing roses organically. I am very excited to have the opportunity and forum to do this. As an organic gardener for over 12 years, I like so many others, started out growing roses with the attitude that to grow beautiful roses, a large portion of the program had to be chemical products. I believed this partly because that's what I was told and partly because I didn't know any better. I actually had very little knowledge of what really made plants grow and even less of the specifics of growing good roses. One of the reasons I changed from a chemical routine was a time factor (although not the main one). I worked during the week and therefore to keep up with a consistent routine, one of my weekend days was devoted to spraying or I had to make up for it early evening as morning was impossible to work in my garden. With about 500 roses, it was not a small undertaking and moving away from chemicals to an organic program began to sound really good to me. From what I had read at the time it made sense to grow strong roses that had disease resistance as a result of good organic methods.
When I agreed to be part of a Committee about rose culture my first question was can we change it. Change it, to what? I would like it to be about all natural, organic or chemical free, what ever you want to call it. Since this is how I grow my roses, I want to let anyone interested, know that it can be done. As a Consulting Rosarian I am interested in all aspects of rose growing, but keeping it organic is my focus. I am continually learning about new products and techniques that are being introduced as well as looking at older tried and true methods. Our goal is to give you a place to find information, ask questions and exchange ideas on organic rose care. As Consulting rosarians we can and should discuss all types of products, but will offer information on alternatives to chemicals. For more articles, general information and to contact us we have create this web site.
If you still wish to have roses that are perfect to the point of perfection you can achieve that by using the same procedures but substituting natural remedies. By having this venue to discuss and share our ideas, products and techniques we can help each other garden easier, with more knowledge and an organic option.
Fortunately, in this part of the United States (El Cajon, California), we can just about garden all year. With this advantage comes added time to learn how to improve and change what I was doing. For the first two years, I have to tell you, I was not impressed. I still wanted my roses to look good enough to show, and share them with others without a certain amount of disease. I took classes on organic gardening and others on general horticulture. I read as much as I could and started trying anything that I could get, from Gatoraid to baking soda and beyond.
From that time forward I used home remedies and gradually my time spent was becoming very productive as my roses improved and I felt better about not using chemical products. Within the next few years I met many people, through the local rose societies (I belong to 3 in our area) and other rosarians through nurseries that felt as I did. Twelve years ago there were few commercial products that were considered organic and it seemed fewer people who cared. But, Fortunately we now have some brilliant people in this area who are focusing on producing products for the use of organic rose growers. These great minds are developing mixtures of organic fertilizers and other products that make our pursuit of earth friendly gardening easier with results we can readily see. Over time we will discuss these people and their products, what they are used for, and how well they work.
Helping me is Paulette Mouchet. Paulette is a dynamic source of information on organic and natural methods whose knowledge far exceeds my own. Her experience is lengthy and can be viewed on our website. Paulette's husband, George, has graciously volunteered his skills for the website and what you see here is due to his talents. What I lack in organizational skills are made up by my wife Bonnie, who lends her expertise to keep me on time and focused plus the added talent of searching the electronic highway for anything I need to look for.
The ease of growing roses is directly proportional to how much you want to do and to what degree of perfection you want. The more energy you expend in feeding, soil building, general care, control of disease and pests the more your results will reflect your degree of dedication. Conversely, the longer you use these methods the less you will need to worry about constant maintenance while still enjoying gorgeous roses. Living in Southern California somewhat inland is the best place in the world to grow roses. Why I think we have the best place to grow roses is because we can have our roses blooming 12 months in the year. We actually have to tell our roses when to rest by leaving the hips on and then two months later we prune and off we go again. Our first bloom cycle is done before some areas of the U.S has a chance to prune. By the time we get to our fourth or fifth bloom cycle many areas have their first snow. So what works in our part of the rose world may not in yours, but by sharing what does work, it might be a lot easier to find a product or method that will work for you. I am pretty happy with what I am doing now, but I am always on the lookout for new and better ways that will make it easier to care for my roses. What I have learned is through experience in my own garden or someone else's over many years, a lot of reading, and many conversations with other concerned earth friendly rose growers. If I had to say what I feel is the single most important aspect of rose growing, that would be the soil you grow your roses in. This is one of the many areas we are exploring in articles on the web site. So we are glad to see you here, exchanging ideas, making friends and spreading the word on organic rose growing.