A rose bush in the desert!

If our roses are to survive the summer, we need to set them up to be strong and healthy in the spring. Follow these simple tips, and enjoy your spring blooms!

FEED: Schedule a program of organic and water-soluble mixtures:

• Be sure to water your roses thoroughly the night before you fertilize them.

• This week: Use an organic fertilizer or homemade compost—about a cup per bush.

• In two weeks: Fertilize with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer like Peters or Miracle Grow; follow package directions.

• Once a month, apply a dose of fish emulsion to help get the microorganisms going.

• Continue every two weeks with the water soluble fertilizer.

WATER: If daytime temperatures are in the 70s, water each ground-planted rose every five to six days, and potted roses every three days.

• When temperatures are in the 80s, water every four to five days, and potted roses every two days. (These are suggested intervals based on 10 to 15 gallons of water per watering.) Water more frequently when we have a series of days with highs in the 90s, like we often do.

MULCH: Lay a 2-to-3-inch layer of bark mulch to keep soil from drying out in the hot days ahead.

PESTS: During the spring, the main rose ailments are aphids and mildew. Spraying your roses with the jet setting on your hose nozzle a couple of times per week will help reduce the aphid population. If a colony has gotten started, use Bayer rose spray or Safer insecticide once a week per bottle instructions to wipe them out.

• Mildew can be kept in check by using a good fungicide. It is best to use fungicide as a preventative on a weekly basis, rather than waiting for the problem to show up. It’s harder to prevent damage once it’s started.

When the weather gets warmer, the dreaded thrip will appear. Thrips attack rose blooms and turn them brown. A simple way to keep them under control is to get a small plastic spray bottle with your favorite rose spray, and spray the buds directly as they are starting to open. Do this once a week, at least.