This is the first of several articles I will be posting about the hazards of growing roses, both to the rose gardener and the environment. I am the first to admit that I have been guilty of creating these hazards, both to the environment and to myself, through the extensive use of fungicides and insecticides in my gardens. By the same token, I have also learned a great deal over the years about minimizing the use of chemicals through integrated pest management (IPM), which I would like to pass along to my readers.
First, let me say that I believe it is necessary to use at least some insecticides and fungicides in growing roses. All roses are susceptible to attacks by spider mites, aphids, Japanese beetles (JBs) etc., and it is virtually impossible to completely control these insects in a large garden by sharp sprays of water or, in the case of JBs, by hand picking. By the same token, it is virtually impossible to grow exhibition quality roses without controlling the multiple spores of black spot and anthracnose funguses through the use of fungicides. I know there are gardens that spray nothing at all, but these are also gardens that are subject to insect infestations and funguses during a significant part of every growing season.
So the question is not whether to use chemicals; it is which chemicals provide the greatest effectiveness with the fewest hazards to the environment and the gardener; and how often those chemicals should be used. The good news is that some of the best insecticides and fungicides are also among the least hazardous and require the lowest frequency of use. The bad news is that many people are confused by which chemicals to use; plus they are led to believe that they must use chemicals every week or two, in order to keep them effective. That is not at all surprising because it is in the interest of chemical manufacturers to sell their particular products and convince you to use them often.
I just paged through the most recent edition of the American Rose, the magazine of the American Rose Society, which, for many of us, is the bi-monthly rosarian bible. In this edition, I found no less than 15 separate ads and references for rose chemicals. Rosemania, which in my opinion is the best provider of rose growing supplies in the country, lists 16 different rose chemicals in this month’s ad, alone. (As a side note, I am astounded at the prices for some of this stuff!) At the front of the magazine, the ARS lists its tested and endorsed chemicals. So, are these the safest and most effective chemicals? Not necessarily, in my opinion. I am sure the ARS could not publish the American Rose without the advertising revenues from chemical manufacturers and distributors, so it is difficult for them to state opinions on which products are the safest and most effective. Not since the passing of Howard Walters, who provided his opinions in his monthly “Rosarian Ramblings” columns, have we had any such direction in the American Rose.
Howard’s shoes are way too big for me to fill but I will try, in the weeks ahead, to describe what I believe are the safest and most effective chemicals available to us as rose growers today. I have already done some of this in several of my previous blog posts; most notably “There’s a Fungusamongus”: http://jack-rosarian.blogspot.com/2012/07/theres-fungusamongus.html and “Good Results Using Demand CS on JBs”: http://jack-rosarian.blogspot.com/2012/07/good-results-using-demand-cs-on-jbs.html .
I am also very interested in the effects on the environment of what we spray. Specifically I will address effects on beneficial insects, especially bees and the extensive world-wide problem of colony collapse disorder (CCD). It now appears that we are contributing to CCD with the extensive use of imidacloprid (Merit) and other insecticides containing neonicotinoids in the rose garden.
Finally, I will be addressing personal safety through the use of proper breathing apparatus and overall bodily protection. Unfortunately, I have had personal experience with the effects of spraying rose chemicals with protection I thought was sufficient, but which clearly was not.