by Eugene Meyer
When I first heard this month’s topic I thought to myself, “I don’t use much in the way of tools and gadgets”. I’m pretty old school and cheap. I started a list thinking, ” this won’t be very long”. Actually, without trying very hard, I had a list, a longer list than I imagined. So lets get started.
A good sprayer is at the top of the list. I used a one gallon $10 sprayer for several years. Did I mention I’m thrifty? Certainly one gallon did the job. Now I have the same number of roses with some having grown up to size, and a one gallon doesn’t suffice. Last season I splurged on a two gallon “nice” sprayer. It even has a button to relieve the pressure when finished. It really wasn’t that much more, besides I’ll use it forever. Buy the better sprayer, you’ll be glad you did. With spraying comes the need for safety glasses and some type of respirator.
Next up is a good pair of gauntlet gloves. You know, the ones that are made of goat skin and come up almost to your elbows? There are certain jobs where you flat out need them or be prepared to pay the consequences.
A Hollow Leg is the best door prize I have ever won at our meetings. It is a collection bag with a strap that goes around your waist. If you’re dead heading it is way better than lugging around a trash can.
Every rosarian needs a water wand. I have a couple of hoses snaking through 2/3 of my roses but watering by hand is the best way to “see” what’s going on with your roses. The problem with most wands is the shutoff valve wears out quickly. Credit Bob Martin with the solution. Buy a Dramm brass cutoff. Also from Bob, buy a Foggit Waterfogg. It attaches to the end of your water wand and helps you knock off spider mites. Miticides are expensive and the mites develop resistance to them.
Of course you will need a great pair of pruners and loppers. You can go too cheap in this department, and you’ll be buying new ones all the time. Buy a great pair and they will last a long time. Buy a bypass pruner so you don’t crush the stems of your beauties.
A good pair of knee pads is a must have. They save your knees and your pants. A good pair are the ones with hard plastic and two straps to hold them on.
This next item I’m ambivalent about. You can’t grow great roses without knowing what the pH is in your garden. For years I used the $15 Home Depot pH meter. It will give you a general idea of what it is. I gave in and bought a Kelway meter; and, it is supposed to be accurate. Now here is my problem. A UT soil sample test with soil taken from several spots in my garden, says my pH is above 7. My Kelway meter says most of my garden is below 6 pH. When I mentioned this to the “kid” taking the samples at the Ellington Agriculture Center, he says “well, our testing equipment costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.” A meter is only as good as it is calibrated. Knowing I fertilize the hell out of my roses, which lowers the pH, my meter is probably correct. Sorry UT, maybe your equipment needs re-calibrating.
Another tool you need is a good shovel. One that won’t bend in half when you’re trying to pry a rock out of a hole you are digging. There are all sorts of weird looking hoes and scoopers available. I don’t own any of them. One of my most trusty tools is a three tined “scratcher-inner.” I like getting down on my knees and scratching in my Mills Mix by hand. Actually makes my back feel better. The act of doing it resembles a yoga pose.
After all that, let me just say, I started my first Hybrid Tea bed of roses with a pair of gloves and a shovel. The soil was good there at that location. With some Miracle Grow those roses grew very well indeed. Much, much later do I now have all these gadgets and tools to help make my life a little easier. They are nice to have, but by no means are they necessary for you to have in order to grow great roses.
From the Webmaster – By the way Gene, every gardener needs a good hat!
Article originally published in Rose Leaf, the NRS newsletter, April 2022.