Having a beautiful, well-tended rose garden is the dream of many gardeners. Unfortunately, many gardeners, knowing roses are heavy feeders, shy away from them, imagining the countless pounds of chemicals they will have to use to keep their roses beautiful. But the fact is that organic rose culture is easy and you don't have to use strong or harmful chemicals. The foundation of organic rose gardening is organic soil maintenance and fertilization. Organic fertilization benefits roses by releasing nutrients slowly as the plants need them. They also release lower amounts of nutrients into the groundwater, decreasing the environmental impact.
Organic compost made from garden waste is the foundation of organic rose fertilization. Your pile should include a wide variety of organic material. Grass clippings and kitchen scraps provide nitrogen, while leaf waste gives structure to compost. Crushed egg shells and pulverized crab and oyster shells add calcium and moderate acidity. Compost is only as organic as the materials you use, so don't add materials treated with non-organic fertilizers or chemicals. Add it to soil at planting and as a dressing around the plant at the beginning of the growing season. The best store-bought organic compost is often made in cooperation with state and provincial environmental agencies. These composts are made from abundantly available local materials.
Manure, rich in nitrogen, is great for roses. Store-bought composted manure can be added to home compost or mixed into the planting hole right away. You can also use it to dress the soil around roses at the beginning of the growing season. Composted farm manure from horses, cows or chickens can be added to the compost pile, but never use it directly in the planting hole or under the plant. If not completely composted, it can burn roots and stems.
There are many organic fertilizer products made for roses. Make sure the label reads "100 percent organic." Commercially-prepared rose fertilizers have the benefit of providing micronutrients such as magnesium and copper that roses need. Follow instructions on the label to avoid overuse.
Use an organic mulch around roses at the beginning of the growing season. Mulch will break down throughout the season and contribute its nutrients to the soil. You can use your own partially decomposed compost as a mulch. It, too, will release its nutrients over time.
Store-bought nutrient additives can be added to the compost pile or directly to soil to enhance and balance the nutrients. Bone meal, alfalfa meal and cottonseed meal are all good compost additives that release their nutrients slowly into the soil. Fish emulsion, blood meal and Epsom salts can be added directly to soil to release nutrients quickly. Use according to label instructions.