Chemicals & Roses

Chemicals & Roses

It started as a desire to stop using harmful rose sprays and having lots of them I wanted to mix my own from natural and organic sources to minimise harm to wildlife and bees. Now we have an International test going on.
The simplest thing to do is to grow disease resistant breeds. However, the most fragrant and beautiful roses I know of are prone to disease and need looking after. I do not mind the effort as the reward of beautiful roses and wonderful scent makes my heart sing.

The problem is that most of the treatments are harmful to wildlife and the environment and I am keen to use garden products that do no harm.
Probably the best known organic rose tonic is Uncle Toms. It is a very good product. Please read about it.

The Science Behind Uncle Tom’s® Rose Tonic

Amateur gardeners now have the opportunity to benefit from potassium phosphite, a nature-identical plant food. Widely used by professional growers the results have prompted recommendations from many of the leading members of the rose breeding and growing industry.

I am a passionate amateur rose gardener, it is not my day job, it is my safe place of sanity in a mad world. ‘How hard can it be to make my own?’ I thought one day, sounding like Jeremy Clarkson now.
There is a wealth of information out there. One article got me thinking:

Safe Rose Spray Recipe That Really Works – Horticulture

Looking for a safe rose spray to keep your plants healthy? Here’s the non-toxic recipe given to us by the gardeners at Hershey Gardens in Pennsylvania.

Looking at the Ingredients

Roses like acidic soil, ideally a pH of 6-6.5. With a cheap pH meter you can test your soils pH and add Cider or White vinegar in a feed to adjust the soil pH and the roses will thrive. You should always combine the vinegar with feed to ensure the plant is nourished. Too much vinegar will also kill plants. Baking Soda is known to help treat fungal disease on plants and so the combination of Vinegar and baking soda is logical.

The addition of the oil is to coat the foliage so that moisture runs off. There is dry weather and high humidity it is creates the perfect conditions for powdery mildew. This basic combination of ingredients works quite well on roses.

Taking it a step further

I got the idea from David Austin Roses @DAustinRoses in a tweet about organic rose treatments that garlic exudes natural Sulphur which rose treatments need to be effective. So I am testing my concoction with Garlic concentrate from an Equine supplier as it is used in horses as a tonic. Garlic acts as an anti-septic, anti-flammatory, and fly repellent. Most importantly it is rich in natural sulphur which kills fugal spores.

Equimins Garlic Extract Liquid – Equimins

Concentrated Garlic Extract. Many times stronger than powder or granules. Daily use will support the respiratory system in a way no other single herb does.

I decided to replace the vegetable oil with Neem oil because it kills pests and fights powdery mildew and blackspot. I use good quality oil used as a carrier oil in organic cosmetics and essential oil blends

Virgin Neem Carrier Oil | Naissance

Naissance 100% pure, unrefined, cold Pressed Neem Oil. A rich oil, viscous oil, packed with fatty acids and Vitamin E. Cruelty Free and Vegan Friendly

For soap I use again a natural organic soap so that I know I am not adding chemicals from dish soap

Certified Organic Liquid Castile Soap | Naissance

Naissance 100% natural, Organic Liquid Castile Soap. A natural, deep cleansing soap made from premium vegetable oils. Cruelty Free and Vegan Friendly

Sulphur Rose

In 2023 I started adding Sulphur Rose to the mixture. Black spot (Diplocorpon Rosae) is a fungus that manifests itself on Rose Bushes as black spots fringed with yellow rings on both sides of the leaves.

As the disease spreads, the entire leaf goes from green to yellow and drops to the ground if unchecked the black spot can affect the entire rose garden leaving the appearance of many bare-naked plants.
Grerenacres Sulphur Rose

I use the above products because I know they are top quality, I am not paid to promote these products. My interest in this is purely as a hobby and to share my experience with others via Twitter. They also sell smaller quantities if you only have a few roses. The key is to use good quality products.

The Recipe

Mixing 1 Gallon or 4.5 Litres

  • 2 Tablespoons of Vinegar (15 ml)
  • 2 Tablespoons of organic liquid soap (30 ml)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Neem Oil (30 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons of Garlic Concentrate (45 ml)
  • 3 Tablespoons Baking Soda (45 grams)
  • 2 Spoons of Sulphur Rose powder 5ml

Making a bottle of 750 ml in a spray bottle:

  • 2.4 ml of Vinegar
  • 5 ml of organic liquid soap
  • 5 ml of Neem Oil
  • 5 ml of Garlic Concentrate
  • 7.5 grams Baking Soda
  • 1/2 scoop of Sulphur Rose


I mix in a gallon sprayer and make sure I give it all a good shake before using. Ideally, it needs to be stored at room temperature and if the oil gets lumpy just put it in the airing cupboard or stand in a bucket of hot water for a while making sure it is cool before spraying.

Mixing Large Batches

Put all the ingredients except the baking soda into a 1 litre measuring jug. Add 400 ml of boiling water.
Carefully put the baking soda into the mixture do not stir or agitate, wait between spoons of baking soda for 30 seconds or so and gently stir.

Have a large bottle with a funnel ready, I use 1.5-litre water bottles. If the Bicarb fizzes up too much, quickly pour it into he the larger bottle. If this happens let it cool before putting it back in the measuring jug to accurately top up with water.

Leave for 15-20 minutes then top up to 1 Litre with hot water do not worry about the foam. Leave to cool then pour into spray unit or storage container and add 3.5 litres of water. I store this in 1 litre bottle of concentrate and add to spray unit before use.

If it is cold put the concentrate bottle into a bowl or bucket of hot water so that the oil melts and shake well.

Using Concentrate From I Litre bottle

If you use a small spray bottle 280 ml of the concentrate to 750 ml of water following the batch process above.

A note on spraying

The best time of day to spray is as the sun goes down. Do not water before. The leaves will be dry and the spray will be most effective. Do not spray just the surface of the leaves but underneath.

If you have any disease remove the diseased leaves and dispose of, do not compost and pick up any leaves around the base of the rose.

In these instances spray the stems and around the base, wash your hands and sterilise any secateurs or cutting tools to stop the spread of disease. We all have plenty of ant-bac wipes these days!

An Experiment

A group of Twitters gardeners are participating in an experiment to see how this goes on just one rose bush this season following this recipe. I have sent out my mixture so that we get consistent results and I will be posting more news on this.

Please do contact me via Twitter @JRRushden to discuss this and ask any questions.

Posted by Jason Richards in Plant Care, Roses, 0 comments
Mulching For Roses

Mulching For Roses

Mulching is a mysterious subject and quite often the views of gardeners differ on what is best. The science of soil is that what works in one part of the country may be quite different in another. You start then to go far too technical for my limited gardening time.

My purpose is not so much to be the ‘expert’ but to explain how my mulches work for me and the results I get in my garden.

There are essentially two parts to a mulch and in my view three. There we go I am at odds with thousands of gardeners now!
Slightly different methods are used in agriculture and I am speaking about Roses.

The Roots

The most important thing is to plant well to ensure the roots can breathe and get nourishment.

I always use Mycorrhizal Fungi to develop good roots and is a natural way to grow strong plants. The fungi work with the plant in a symbiotic relationship; the fungi take sugars from the plant and give back nutrients and moisture, the most valuable being phosphorus which helps the development of good roots.

I have also been using Richard Jacksons Root Booster that contains Mycorrhizal Fungi and additionally naturally occurring Humates. These Humates are naturally occurring mineral deposits of organic matter made over thousands of years and a great fertiliser for plants. It also contains feed.

Layer 1

Around the base of the plant I use slow releasing plant feed. David Austin has a really good natural fertiliser that slow releases. It is not always available and I have been using Richard Jacksons ‘Easy Feed’. I have had astonishing results using Richard Jacksons products. Secondly, I used seaweed granules at this level to slowly feed into the roots. Seaweed is both a fertiliser and natural tonic, It helps chlorophyll production and plant growth hormones that help both the roots and branches.

Layer 2

Consists of really good compost mixed four compost to one topsoil with one good pine bark chippings that I put through the garden shredder to make them fine. I measure using a 750 gram tub for precision and 100 grams of Seaweed granules mixed up and cover the base of the plant with 5 cm of this concoction. What it does is to leach and rot down to the roots over the season. Roses will grow anywhere if fed well from above into the roots. This year I am putting 3 bags of ground fresh garlic per barrow of compost mulch. Garlic helps keep aphids and fungal diseases at bay, is said to improve fragrance and the size of the blooms.

Layer 3

The top the layer is either Pine Nuggets, Gravel or even slate chippings. I have a large gravelled area and purely randomly after a visit to David Austin I had two extra roses and nowhere to put them. So I dug two big deep holes in the gravel and planted them there. They have thrived with good planting technique and annual mulching. I now have 6 roses in the gravel area all doing extremely well.
Both gravel and Pine nuggets act to retain moisture in the soil and protect the roots from the winter frosts. The bark gradually rots and adds to the feeding process

Steps To Mulching Well

  1. Clear any dead or diseased leaves from the surface
  2. Rake back any existing mulch about 12 inches around the base
  3. Apply the compost layer
  4. Replace the gravel or bark and top up with fresh material

Products I Use

David Austin Mycorrhizal Fungi – Rose Food, Sprays, Compost – Rose & Garden Accessories

Buy David Austin Mycorrhizal Fungi from David Austin. Our Accessories have been expertly chosen for their quality and practicality by our rose experts.

David Austin

Root Booster – Richard Jackson Garden

Formulated from 3 special ingredients and 100% natural, Root Booster can help you grow healthier, bigger and better plants.

Root Booster

David Austin Rose Food – Rose Food, Sprays, Compost – Rose & Garden Accessories

Buy David Austin Rose Food from David Austin. Our Accessories have been expertly chosen for their quality and practicality by our rose experts.

Easy Feed Slow Release Plant Food 750g – Richard Jackson Garden

Feeding your plants simply couldn’t be easier – just add Easy Feed at planting time, or to established containers, and the granules gradually release Flower Power nutrients for up to 6 months!

Equimins Straight Herbs Seaweed – Equimins

Contains minerals and trace elements. Adds lustre to the coat and can help improve hoof condition.

Equimins Straight Herbs Seaweed


Mycorrhizal fungi / RHS Gardening

Mycorrhizas are fungal associations between plant roots and beneficial fungi. The fungi effectively extend the root area of plants and are extremely important to most wild plants, but less significant for garden plants where the use of fertilisers and cultivation disrupts and replaces these associations.

Mycorrhizal fungi

Gardening experts spray roses with essence of GARLIC for extra growth | Daily Mail Online

It’s been a good year for the roses down at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden in Surrey. Just take a look at these magnificent blooms, which have grown to twice their normal size.

Garlic spray

Seaweed – A Mystery and a Miracle for Plants

Carolyn Elgar Master Rosarian, Orange County Rose Society Roses & You, June 2020 Want to give your rose garden a real treat? Give it a dose of seaweed and it will benefit in many ways, including some we don’t know much about. Your rose bushes will flourish and reward you with increased healthy growth. Seaweed has been used for food and fertilizer for hundreds of years. Particularly in areas with easy access to ocean beaches, such as Japan and China, seaweed was spread throughout the garden as a

Seaweed article
Posted by Jason Richards in Plant Care, Roses, 0 comments