Reader response: I have several rows of roses and use hardwood mulch twice a year, which seems to disappear in a few weeks. Felder Rushing said to put cottonseed meal on everything in the fall and I do so. I just wonder what else I could be putting there for growth next year. Something for phosphate and
potassium? I also wonder about just planting some variety of clover between plants for shading weeds and for nitrogen fixing. Good idea? Annual or perennial? Would hairy vetch be better? Of course I could not plow it under.
However, since I do advocate organic growing, including all fruits and vegetables and flowers (especially edible ones!), I’ll venture a little into Felder’s territory. (I’m also happy to plug his latest book, Slow Gardening,
which is really chock full of good advice!)
I think Felder’s right on the cottonseed meal; it attracts worms which produce worm castings which is the most natural and best fertilizer. It’s also OMRI approved for certified organic fertilizer and/or soil amendments. Also, you could build a worm bin and have castings for free, feeding them your veggie compost and egg shells. There are lots of plans online, and also you could try a “Can-O-Worms” for worm “tea,” or liquid fertilizer for your plants. Check your local garden store; it can order them, if not in stock.
While I recommend using cover crops such as crimson clover, hairy vetch, fava beans, buckwheat, etc., for fields and 4×8 Jim’s plots for backyard gardening to fertilize soil, I wouldn’t plant clover or vetch in between your rose bushes, as they will take over the beds; rather, use mulch.
I’m surprised your hardwoods decompose so quickly; you must have a very acidic soil. I’m not “up” on mulches for flower gardens; but you can use WeedGuard, which is a decomposing paper.
Perhaps, you could modify that concept; for example, use a synthetic, nontoxic, recycled weed barrier, like that used in playgrounds for between the plants and cover it with your hardwood mulch for appearance’s sake. Or use old newspapers and cardboard and cover that with your hardwoods; depending on how often you
want to fool with the beds.
But, if you’re planting in a field or yard, planting in clover and then coming back and rotating strips for food crops is a great use of space.
We use greensand for naturally occurring phosphorous and potassium. It’s available at local garden stores.
To keep your roses nontoxic, use OMRI-approved methods to fight black spot and other diseases. Online, see: www.arbico-organics.com.
The rose “hips,” or berry-like fruit where the flowers were, are a top source for natural vitamin C. They should be there now; look for a red, pink or orange “ball.” They turn bright red after frost. The hairy seeds in the fleshy part should be removed before using in a recipe; they have more vitamin C per weight
than citrus and can be used to sprinkle on food, or in apple sauce, soups or stews (Good to know with flu season looming!). Don’t use metal pans or utensils with them. They taste tart, like cranberries.
My beautiful wife Annette puts rose petals in the teas she makes. You can boil them in water with lemon juice and sugar or honey for a stand-alone tea, put them in an omelette, or use as a garnish (real pretty in yogurt!).
But, of course, you must treat your roses organically to consume them, and not
use toxic chemicals.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.