Overhanded with fertilizers and lost all my roses?

ladyrose65December 31, 2011

Sandandsun, has requested I tell what happened to my 127 rose bushes. In 90 to 93, I had acquired about 127 bushes. They were practically on top of one another. I had a little of everything, but the bulk were OGR's.

I entered rose shows. Never won anything major, because I will still a newbie and the roses needed some time to mature. However, I began feeding them lots of alfalfa meal and Mills Magic Rose Mix at every 3-week intervals. When the first frost hit one October, all my roses were fried. The only one that survived was the R.F. Kiftsgate which was planted in different area. I let the soil rest for 10-years because of the fertilizer.

Now I only feed the roses April or March and Last feed btw July 4 not later than the 16th.

By the way, is anyone from the Jersey Shore Rose Society on here.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
seil zone 6b MI

How sad, ladyrose! I guess there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! I use a slow release granular fertilizer scratched in around April and liquid foliar feed maybe once a month or six weeks from there on through September.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 6:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mike_rivers(z5 MI)

If you did over-fertilize, waiting ten years to replant is pointless. Over-fertilizing means there are high concentrations of fertilizer elements in the soil water and high concentrations in the soil water means, in turn, that rinsing the soil with water will remove them.

The ingredients in Mills Magic are equal parts of bloodmeal, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, fish meal, Mil-organite and bone meal. I find it hard to believe you could damage roses with too much of this mix and also I can't see why the first frost would trigger the damage. You've described an effect, are you sure there is no other cause?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 7:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'll be interested in following this thread. I have had trouble with my roses failure to thrive, not dying but not healthy. I wonder if I over fertilize. I only use organics and have sand for soil which holds nothing for long and a 12 month growing season. They get something every month. Ladyrose, was it that they started putting out new growth from the fertiler being applied late in the season then the cold getting them?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 9:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Plain-and-simple, I should of stopped fertilizing in July. I kept at it. The roses never went into dormancy, when frost came they became red as if they were fried. They were all dead. What is so hard to believe about that!

Yes, Nancy, they were still putting out caines, leaves and flowers.

Giving the soil a break did help. I would watch every season to see if any trees would catch root immediately. Otherwise I would of had to replace the soil completely.
I eventually, tilled in large amounts of peat moss and compost.

Now the problem with my soil ph is reading 8.2. The roses are doing fine, but the perennials are taking a hit. I'm going to send my soil to Rutger's Agriculture Ext. for soil analysis.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 10:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
caldonbeck(UK (8))

Doesn't sound right somewhere, the new sappy growth would die if over fed but doubt if the rest would. Sounds like weedkiller or something.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 12:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Or, too much organic material not "digesting", but fermenting instead, leading to some opportunistic rot taking out the roses. Like soil souring due to insufficient oxygen and too much water, though the sandy soil would probably prevent that specific scenario. Some other fermentation rot could have led to their demise. Kim

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 1:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, new growth exposed to cold temperatures turns red. This is quite obvious with partially protected canes--the exposed parts will be red and the protected parts will still be green. An yes, the really new, fresh growth will be fried. And, as we go through freeze/thaw cycle, buds will swell and be killed, starting from the top of the bush and working their way down the canes (apical dominance). This is why it helps to leave lots of cane and not hard prune before winter--the more cane you have, the more buds you have available before they are all lost in freeze/thaw cycles. This doesn't apply to folks that have hard winters--their roses never thaw out during the winter. But, even killing all the buds on all the canes doesn't kill the bush--there is still the root stock and the graft. Hopefully you buried the graft--roses will start anew from the graft. If you buried them deep there will be energy stores left to power the new graft. If you didn't bury them, the new growth is likely to be weak, though some HTs and really vigorous roses can regenerate from the graft. Or, if you purchased vigorous own root roses, roses can come up via the rootstock. Dr Huey has no trouble regenerating from its roots.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 9:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ladyrose that had to be heartbreaking to lose them. But then you get a fresh start. I always dream of having a blank canvas knowing what I've tried that didn't work and ones that were wonderful surprises. Hopefully all will be well in the future for your garden.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 10:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sandandsun(9a FL)

Before making any statements of my own, I refer you to the below linked post where Paul Zimmerman references Professor Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D. Washingtion State Univerity.

Here is a link that might be useful: Zimmerman references Professor Linda Chalker-Scott

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 12:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You don't need to go crazy with fertilizer to win rose shows--I've done quite well in rose shows in CT, MA, and Rhode Island (not just the local show). We haven't lost a rose in years.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 12:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Bear in mind that the doses on fertilizer labels tend to be near the maximum safe dose and are often more than is needed for strongest growth. So if you apply the labeled dose of one fertilizer, don't apply a second fertilizer within the stated time interval because you would be doubling the amount of nitrogen or whatever.

On sandy soils where nutrients leach readily, apply smaller amounts at shorter time intervals.

It doesn't sound right that organic fertilizer plus frost killed a whole garden of roses, but it is true that rose growers often damage plants or the soil with excessive fertilizer. Too much nitrogen damages plants directly. In soils with good clay or organic content, other nutrients can build up over time to the point that plants can't draw balanced nutrition from the soil.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 12:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

The big thing that leaps out at me is the current pH reading. That's WAAAY up there. If you told me it was twice the pH of the native, unamended soil, I'd believe you. Something was put on this soil to get the pH remotely that high. Something that hasn't been told to us yet.

Over the years, I've talked to a lot of rose growers, with a wide range of growing styles. Some of them have been of the over-zealous, exhibitor type. Even the worst of them haven't managed to kill off a whole garden of roses in a few years.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 1:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like hearing all these opinions. But I was a avid member of the rose society. I kept putting more and particularly alfalfa meal and the rabbit food pellets until the end of September. (I had that mentality, the more fertilizers the faster and larger they would grow). I did not heed the warning to stop fertilizing by the end of July. That was over 10 years ago.

What's going on now, I do not know. I know I have large tree roots growing right underneath my bed. I don't use lime. But my roses are doing fine. I'm strictly an Epsoma and Fish emulsion user. It' my perennials that are taking a dive. (But there are some really large worms in the soil).

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 4:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
diane_nj 6b/7a

Hi ladyrose65, I'm in the JSRS. Too much fertilizer, organic or not. We can get away with just two applications of Mills Mix here, some years only one. Same with alfalfa, once a season is more than enough (I don't do that alfalfa "tea" thing), especially if another fetrtilizer that includes alfalfa is applied. The last application of fast-acting nitrogen may have caused fast growth that made the plants unable to manage a quick onset of cold. Do have the Rutgers Extension do the soil test.

Also, were these grafted roses? If so, was the graft union buried below the soil?

I'm glad that your plants are doing better now.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 7:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kentucky_rose zone 6

Do you have any pictures to show before and after the devastation?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 10:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No Kentucky. My fellow rosarian's laughed because they said I had enough fertilizers to grow crops for years to come. The computer in which I had the list of roses on is now gone. I shopped heavily at Vintage Roses, Roses Unlimited, Rosemania, Sickles, Brock Farms, Ashdown, Pickering and Hortico.

But I can give you a good idea of what it looked like. Do you remember Bewitched when she wanted everything to be still. Imagine all the rose caines a red. If you touched them it would snap off in your hands. Lifeless.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 12:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sandandsun(9a FL)

A post from The Garden Professors blog by Professor Chalker-Scott on the adverse effects of overfertilizing shrubs. Roses are shrubs not crops. See link below.

Thank you again Ladyrose for sharing.


Here is a link that might be useful: Fertilizers, crops and landscapes

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 9:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A number of years ago, I communicated with a daylily hybridizer who was very well-known and respected in Florida. She had lost an entire field of new introductions and seedlings after plowing it with alfalfa pellets before planting. Lots of people didn't believe alfalfa could do this. I myself have seen daylilies rot after I put alfalfa into the planting holes, so I know it is true. Now, I use alfalfa tea only and just on the roses, never the daylilies. I love brewing it and pouring it on!
We can have wickedly hot summers here and I think some kind of fermentation went on that heated up the soil and caused the rot. This is just my opinion based on my experience and my communication with the hybridizer. I am sure others have put alfalfa in their soil without bad results. But--you will never find me doing it.
I am sorry you lost your roses. It must have been devastating and traumatic.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 9:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just bought a bag of alfalfa to use on my newly planted roses. I don't have the bag in front of me, but it said on the label not to mix into the planting hole because it would cause signifigant problems to the roots. It was something to do with the decomposing process but I don't remember how it was worded. The instructions were to only use it as a tea or to just use it on top of the soil.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 9:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I lost some roses one time when I used alfalfa meant for critter feed but it has been many years ago. I believe that it is possible that the alfalfa had added salt. But perhaps it was just fermentation as mentioned above.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 5:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
strawchicago(zone 5a)

Thank you, Zack_lau for a very good explanation of roses' winterization process. Hi Laydrose: I'm puzzled by your pH of 8.2, since the east coast tend to have more acidic soil than my limestone Chicagoland area. Did you put alfalfa meal around roses' bush? I put alfalfa meal around the trunk of my white pine, it gunked up like glue, blocking water. After 4 months it hasn't decomposed yet - this winter that white pine turnes really yellow.

I mixed alfalfa meal into the planting hole as Roses Unlimited instructed. I actually increased the dosage on William Shakepseare 2000 to get him more dark green. All my 10 Austins are green to the tip in this mildest winter in over a decade. I did a pH test on alfalfa meal to compare it with pH of peat moss and pH of MiracleGro's potting soil. It turned more pink (acidic) than MiracleGro (pH of 6.5).

Roses Unlimited use Mills' Magic Mix and when I got the 3 Austin roses from them, the leaves were pale, not dark green - I thought maybe RU have alkaline water like mine. After fixing the soil with peat moss and lots of rain water (acidic), the leaves turned dark green.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 9:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sandandsun(9a FL)

In a subsequent post to the one I linked to earlier in this thread, Professor Chalker-Scott documents that what 30 years of gardening has taught me is substantiated by that much or more ("decades") of scientific evidence. Namely that fertilizers are not good for the soil or for plants. See link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fast food is unhealthy for plants, too

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 6:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Terry Crawford

Double-check your alfalfa meal. Did it have salt in it? Some sold in feed stores contains salt for animals, so you have to be careful which ones to buy. Salt will kill your plants instantly and render your fields usekess,

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 7:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have had similar problems with fresh cut grass and fresh dried nettle as kathy9norcal, and I can well imagine alfalfa hay having much the same effect. I have read of others having great success with these type of soil amendments but my roses have sort of fainted like the soil was dry to the extreme when I have used it. When it comes to any plant material I only fully trust well composted stuff, everything else turns out to be a bit risky. I have one exception which is dired ground up seaweed, which I have spread on the lawn, mixed directly in the soil around the roses and never had any problems. I must confess I have used "fresh" (in lack of a better term) horse and cow manure, but I prefer at least a year old stuff. I even suspect mulch of ground up bark and wood chips aren't all that ideal in some areas, it should preferably be composted.

If you are a bit worried about over fertilizing you can use something like dried chicken pellets or your favorite brand about two weeks before planting and there should be no problem with any unwanted reactions in the soil.

The first year of planting roses are much more tender, both to over fertilizing and drought, which I think is most likely what happened to your roses ladyrose65.

In the years I have had of gardeing and growing roses I have come to the conclution that nothing is better than good compost, which is rarely for sale, you probably will find you have to make your own. If it is possible, green manure is great too, but for the flowergarden it is rarely practical.

I live in an area where the first night frost comes sometimes after October 1. too, and the old advice is not to fertilize after 1. of July, which is what my gradparents and gardeners still do aroun here. You will often read other advice on fertilizer packages, but it is really the safest advice. Roses handle a touch of frost rather well, but the hard frost will kill if it comes to sudden. I must confess I have given my roses a round of fertilizer later that 1. of July, but I never fertilize after July; I might give some extra kalium for the later bloomers but not much nitrogen. When organic fertilizers are used, there should be plenty of nutrients with one or two, perhaps three applications a season. There are lots of evidence that show frequent applications of fertilzer like every two or three weeks can give improved growth and flowering, but then it is litte (!) and often, not plenty and often.

If you ever should come to worry about overfertilizing, the remedy is watering and waiting a couple of weeks. Any harmful effects would be over by then. Fertilzer is not the same as digging in loads of alfalfa hay in the soil which theoretically can take longer time to "settle down".

I recently read a study on organic garendening, where I noticed different methods of fertilizing have effects on the soil I never gave much thought before. For example: using a lot of uncomposted material from the garden, kitchen, and even the special rose fertilizers based on stuff like dried grains, seeds, alfalfa hay, fish and blood meal will promote one type of soil micro organisms. If you use well composted material you will end up with a different type of microlife. An effect I have noticed my self is when you use real compost you get a lot more of the large earth worms species, but still all the naturally occouring varieties in your area. If you regularly use more uncomposted material you will have only the smaller red species.

Depending up on the local climate, I suspect we probalby become more prone to fungus diseases when using a lot of uncomposte material directly in the soil.

I hope there are at least some thoughts that might be helpful in my post. I found this thread very intersting reading your experiences.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
strawchicago(zone 5a)

Thank you, Terryjean, for bringing up the salt issue - I was wondering the same. Someone cautioned about using alfalfa pellets with sugar in them. Organic fertilizer like Mill's Magic with alfala meal, fish meal, blood meal, bone meal and sewage sludge has salt and the components NOT dissolved in water accumulate on the soil surface.

From the pale leaves of the roses I get from Roses Unlimited (they use Mill's Magic), I suspect that it's alkaline. Alkalinity suppreses fungal growth, but increases bacteria. This accomplishes 2 goals: so that fish meal doesn't turn moldy, and to retain the beneficial bacteria provided by fish meal. This explains why LadyRose's soil has a pH of 8.2 with accumulating Mill's Magic. Also gunked up alfalfa meal blocks the penetration of rain water into the soil, driving the pH up.

The best solution is to scoop up 1 to 2 inches of that fertilizer gunk and trash them. Nitrogen moves with water, versus phosphorus and potassium stay put where applied. I still have this alfalfa meal gunk around my white pine that hasn't decomposed in the last 6 months. Once I burnt my geraniums with bone meal. Then I rescued my geraniums by scooping up the bone meal and threw it on a white pine. It killed the white pine.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 11:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dublinbay z6 (KS)

I'm beginning to get the impression that some of you are causing more trouble by continually messing around with your soil. Why not just leave Mother Nature along for a while. Roses should not need all this micro-attention in order to grow and flourish--and it's beginning to sound like they are NOT (growing and flourishing, that is--due to too much fussing over them)!


    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 1:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dublinbay z6 (KS)

By the way, in defense of Roses Unlimited, I have never received an order from them with pale leaves. Mine always arrive with dark green leaves and bursting with health and half-open buds. They are actually my favorite place to order from.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 1:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We all need to get outside. lol

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 3:45PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
First blooming bud of my first rose - Livin' Easy
Getting ready to show her colors
Teasing Georgia as a pruned shrub
So I have been reading on here about growing TG as...
How cold and for how long?
Last night's hard freeze wasn't that hard at my house....
RRD - witches broom? Knockout roses
Can any identify if this is RRD? About 25% of the bush...
Sponsored Products
Atomic 7 ft. Blazer Air Hockey Table - G03510W
$669.99 | Hayneedle
Sedilo 3-light Aluminium Metal Fabric Glass-lighting Fixture Pendant
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™