By Morag Flight
It is turning cold and miserable but roses, petunias and other annuals should be brightening up your day.
Planting – In Zimbabwe, you can plant roses any time of the year, although June and July are the least favoured months. If need there be to plant during this period, the site needs to have a lot of light, at least five hours per day with good drainage soils and not a lot of wind, though some ventilation is necessary. Avoid planting roses in beds that previously had roses. The planting hole needs to be at least 50cm cubed. The next step before planting is to test the drainage by filling the hole with water and monitor how fast the water drains out. If it does not drain well then you will need to water with small quantities of water but more frequently. Incorporate 50g of superphosphates per hole and 50g of lime if your soil is acidic. Mix the dug out soil with compost and fill it back into the hole as you plant in your new rose. Leaves are the food factory of a rose so you need to make sure that they remain healthy. The flowering comes from the bud union. At the start, you should get nice red leaves and strong growth. Cut back about 9cm above the bud union. You can also just bend the stem and remove the flower so that the leaves continue functioning. Once new shoots emerge you can cut the bent stem.
Maintenance – Make sure that the plant has enough water. After pruning add 30-40g per bush of compound D (maizefert). The only time to dig around roses is when you are pruning which is the end of July/ August. From September to April/May you need to add fertilizer every month using compound J (Fruit tree) fertilizer. It is important to wet the soil to 50cm and the amount depends on the type of soil you have; red soil needs more water than sandy soil. It is recommended to mulch. Thick mulch gives a good climate for roots to develop. Mulch with anything but pine needles. Pruning is usually best done in July-August when there is a need to get rid of old canes and twiggy shoots. Aim to leave three to five good basal shoots. Trim the bush to waist height and then decide which to keep. Cut right back and do not be reserved. Treat cuts with PVA paint to avoid rotting. As soon as bulbs shoot up, start feeding them every two weeks with a liquid fertiliser.
Other winter care tips – Continue watering your lawns but only in the morning. Feed annuals and perennials twice monthly. Remove faded flowers regularly to promote more flowers. Continue to tie sweet peas and remove side shoots and tendrils. June is the ideal time to plant out new roses and trees as their growth has slowed down and by the time new growth appears they will be well settled. Perennials should be examined to see which need dividing because if you leave them to get too big, you will just get masses of growth with poor flowers. June is a good month to plant out azaleas and trim deciduous trees