In the midst of Fall clean-up, spreading compost and growing cover crop in your vegetable bed, it’s also time to care for your roses. Taking care of your roses now encourages healthy roses next year. I’m assuming you have already encouraged your rose to go dormant by allowing the buds to turn into rose hips and you haven’t fertilized your rose since the summer. If you used an organic fertilizer in the Spring, you haven’t needed to fertilize since then. (Please note, my directions are for a maritime environment. Colder winter climates are covered in the last paragraph.)
First, cut down your roses, by removing 1/3 of the rose’s overall height. Second, remove all the leaves, both from the branches and around the base of the plant, on the ground. This is important as any diseases on the leaves can be splashed back up onto the rose during the winter rains. And it discourages insects from overwintering on your rose. Third, to protect the base of the rose (the root graft) and to provide nutrients during the winter, pile up compost, about 6 inches high against the rose. The best compost to use for this is plant based – such as what you created with your worm bin. But you can also pile autumn leaves around the root graft. I like to use a combination – the worm bin compost first, then the autumn leaves on top.
If you live in an environment where the winter temperatures go below zero and have plenty of snow, follow the above steps and include a cover for the rose. You will need to minimize how much you cut down the rose as your main pruning will be in the Spring. The cover will also include a plant based compost – 10-12 inches, with an additional 10-12 inch cover with evergreen boughs or branches. If you’d like more information on cold weather rose care, I recommend the following site from University of Illinois. They include tips on timing and watering your rose in the fall as well as suggestions for the type of cover you need for your rose.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification as a comment.