best organic fertilizer?

buzzy(8PugetSound)February 9, 2013

My roses never look like David Austin's catalog! I garden organically and never get the flush of bloom I see there - what organic fertilizer should I use, how much, how often applied?

Please help - I don't want to go to conventional chemicals and spoil my 21 year organic record in the yard, but I adore roses and just want my plants to thrive

thanks!

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I use organic meals (bone melas, kelp meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, etc) but remember that David Austin & Company paid a pretty penny to get gorgeous one-of-a-kind type photos in order to get us to buy. So those roses one sees in pictures are "pumped pretty good of nutrients" using either organics, chemicals or a blend in order to produce big blooms and a photo we will like. And once the photo is taken, photographers retouch them to make the colors stand out even more and look awesome on those special plasticky-looking papers that they use in their catalogs (they make the colors looks brighter and nicer).

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 5:24AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I use organic meals (bone melas, kelp meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, etc) but remember that David Austin & Company paid a pretty penny to get gorgeous one-of-a-kind type photos in order to get us to buy. So those roses one sees in pictures are "pumped pretty good of nutrients" using either organics, chemicals or a blend in order to produce big blooms and a photo we will like. And once the photo is taken, photographers retouch them to make the colors stand out even more and look awesome on those special plasticky-looking papers that they use in their catalogs (they make the colors looks brighter and nicer).

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 5:25AM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Have you tried alfalfa? Using organics, you have to think long term. Every year you should be adding organic material around your roses. Shredded leaves, compost, composted manure. Then in the spring, alfalfa, bone and blood meal, cottonseed meal, fish meal. You can also do a foliar spray of fish emulsion every few weeks. There are also organic mixes like Rose Tone or Mills Magic. The main point is to feed the soil so that it is constantly feeding the roses. And don't forget to water. All the fertilizer in the world will do no good if the rose doesn't have the water to uptake it.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 7:38AM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

am reading with interest. how do you buy the meal?? individually and mix? or is there a bulk meal option?

I am too questioning the same as op, and would like to find an inexpensive option, intrigued with the meal varieties, but can't break the bank and have over 200 roses.

luis, where do you buy this?? i am in dfw as well.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 8:41AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I use Rose Tone (or whichever one of the "Tones" I can find) also. I can easily locate it at Home Depot (haven't checked elsewhere). It comes in small bags. One year when I couldnt' find any locally, I ordered it online and got a somewhat larger bag in about a week. In that case, use the brand name "Espoma."

Some years I also add alfalfa cubes. Go to a grain feed store and buy it in a large bag. Liberally disperse all over your garden--everything including roses loves alfalfa. Water it in well so that the cube starts to disintegrate. (It is also available in powder/meal form--except I can never locate it that way.) Just make sure it has no salt in it.

Periodically adding some manure under the roses will help a lot. You can buy smaller bags at places like Home Depot. Of course if you own a hose, you got it made!

Just a few easy to use ideas.

Kate

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 10:00AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Most of those meals are available at organic minded plant nurseries. Local and large nurseries like Lowes and HD will sell some of them (blood meal and bone meal, for example, are very common). Places that sell food for cattle also tend to include some of those meals.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 3:09PM
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onewheeler(Z5 N.S.)

Every spring I fill up my wheelbarrow with whatever is available, manure, compost, bone meal, alfalfa pellets if I can find them and any organic feed I can find. I throw a shovelful on each and every rose. Then mid summer I have an alfalfa tea that I pour on the roses. I get beautiful blooms, almost as nice as the catalogues. I do not spray my roses with anything, I would if it was a good fish mixture, otherwise they are on their own. I buy the alfalfa in whatever form I can find it. Sometimes that means buying a small bag of rabbit food at the chain store! It does work miracles on the plants.

Valerie

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 3:09PM
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Tessiess, SoCal Inland, 9b, 1272' elev

Just IMHO but I think "best" is local/depends on where you are. My soil and climate are different than in Puget Sound, but for me what has been best is a natural fish fertilizer from Espoma called Gro-Tone. It isn't inexpensive however. Numbers are 2-2-2. A granular organic one I like is E. B. Stone General Purpose Plant Food (5-5-5). I use one or the other of these lightly and infrequently.

The other organic I like is the practice of making plant communities that incorporate nitrogen-fixing plants in that mix, heavily-weighted to natives (or others that like my mediterranean climate). In my garden I have multiple 'Desert Museum' palo verde trees with various roses close by all of them. Other nitrogen-fixers I have are fairy duster, ceanothus, Catalina Island mountain mahogany, an old bauhinia variegata alba (white orchid tree), Otay lotus, deerweed, clovers, tree lupine, and I'm about to seed some of the beds with alfalfa (water is high in boron here and alfalfa has a boron sweet-tooth). Saves time and effort if plants are doing the work of adding a fertilizer that I don't have to--and they do it in nature, so why not make my garden more self-sustaining?

Do you have any native nitrogon-fixers in the Puget Sound area?

Melissa

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 4:28PM
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seil zone 6b MI

I understand how you feel, buzzy, but seriously, those photos in the catalog are porbably photoshopped to look that perfect. Unless you can photoshop your garden you'll probably never get that look. You also have to consider the fact that those roses are being grown at a nursery where there are pretty much perfect conditions and there is a full time staff of people who do nothing but take care of them and have the best of every kind and all types of the proper equipment, fertilizers and additives to do so. I don't know about you but I only have a backyard garden to work with and a life besides my roses too. The conditions are anything but perfect and the money and time only goes so far.

Any good composted manure is good and so is fish emulsion. If you're going to use Epsoma go with the Hollytone. It's exactly the same formula and less expensive. As soon as you stick "Rose" on the label of something the price goes up! I have also used bone meal occasionally but usually only when I dig a hole for a new rose or transplant.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 4:54PM
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nanadollZ7 SWIdaho(Zone 7 Boise SW Idaho)

I love the "Tones", too. Hollytone isn't widely available around here, and all the smaller bags of Tones, including Rosetone, cost the same in these parts. What I've found that is way cheaper, is buying Planttone in the big bag. It's the only one that comes in that size in my area, but works just as well as the more specialized Tones. Another thing to not overlook, is the end of season huge markdowns in all kinds of fertilizers, including the Tones. The markdown was over 50% last fall, and I now have several bags awaiting use before too long. Diane

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 2:12PM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

I'm another who likes the Espoma Tones. I think Plant Tone is 100% organic. The other Tones have some non-organic ingredients but do contain alfalfa, manure, kelp and a list of other stuff that must be good because it sounds so weird.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 5:44PM
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ms. violet grey

Does any of the aforementioned, i.e. alfafa, fish emulsion,

attract mice or other rodents?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 6:25PM
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eahamel(9a)

The one my dogs won't eat.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 8:27PM
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onederw

Does anyone have experience--good or bad or indifferent--with bat guano?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 9:48AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

mauvegirl, some people claim they have problems with "critters" attracted to their organic fertilizers, but I have never noticed any particular activity much less increased activity around my fertilized roses. Of course, I do put mulch over the fertilizer, so maybe that "muffles" the scent? I dont' know--except that it's not a problem in my garden.

kate

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:40PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I use only alfalfa meal which I can buy in 50 lb. bags at the local feed store. I water it in well and the only creature that seems attracted to it is my dog but he's always on a leash when he's outside. It can sometimes clump up and when I see that I pull it apart with my hands. It shows results very quickly with new growth in about a week. You do have to water it in well and that's probably why it's not attractive to animals. Hand watering is best to dissipate the meal into the ground, unless you're lucky enough to have heavy rains.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 1:03PM
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