Cape Diamond, purchased from Der Rosenmeister in Ithaca, NY last year
Today I put alfalfa pellets around my roses and scratched it into the soil. The odd thing was, I couldn’t remember why I was doing it. I knew I had read, or had been told, that it was good to give roses some alfalfa as they’re just leafing out. But I couldn’t remember where I had read it, or who had told me, or how, exactly, alfalfa would help my roses.
If you’ve been gardening for any length of time, a multitude of these routines accumulate after a while. Often they are based on research, or on the little booklet that came with the plant, or because your dad always did it that way. Follow the same maintenance care for a plant–or a garden–for a decade or so, and I guarantee the “why” of what you are doing, at least for some things, will fade into oblivion.
That’s why we have books like The Truth About Garden Remedies and The Informed Gardener. That’s also why we have search engines on the internet.
According to Rayford Reddell, as alfalfa decomposes it yields triacontanol, which acts as a growth stimulant, encouraging basal breaks. Basal breaks is rosarian-speak for “increased vigor and flower production.” Now, I know I didn’t know that before, but I’m glad I found out.
In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.
in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons