Disease control for roses and other plants

Every so often a gardener will send me a gardening solution that is a real gem.
This happened recently via an email from Sue about her and her families experience with potassium permanganate, or as it is more commonly called, Condys Crystals. ( KMnO4 )
(Most uses of potassium permanganate are for its oxidizing properties.)
It is a strong oxidant that does not generate toxic by-products therefore KMnO4 has many special uses.

A solution of potassium permanganate can assist in the control of a number of diseases on plants.

Here is the email I was sent:

Dear Wally,
I came across an old post of yours (2008) today and thought on the off chance that if you are still interested, I’d pass on some info.  My father was a very accomplished gardener in South Africa.
He had the most beautiful garden and had a really soft spot for roses, often rescuing them from the rubbish tip as gnarled dead looking bits of wood;   he’d coax them back to full glory and crow about how stupid their previous owners were to toss them out.

One of his standard soil treatments was Condy’s crystals or potassium permanganate.
He would mix up a mild (pale lilac) solution and drench the soil around each rose in the spring before the leaf buds appeared and then spray the leaves once they had hardened (beyond the soft red stage) a couple of months apart.

Any sign of black spot or rust was immediately treated with the same spray but these were rare.
He also treated white powdery mildew (or any other fungus) with Condy’s wherever it appeared, as both a soil drench and spray on the plants.

My parents grew all their own veg and my mother always washed anything coming in from the garden that was to be eaten raw, in a weak solution (barely lilac).  I’m not sure about the necessity of the latter but none of us appear to have suffered any negative effects.
I moved to the UK some years ago and found that black spot and rust on roses and various fungus infections on veg were much more of an issue here in the damp than in SA.  I looked in vain for Condy’s and finally last year bought some on a trip back to SA.

We are having the wettest summer on record so battling fungus has been pretty constant this year but although my roses do have some spots they are far healthier than they have been in past years (could also be all the water of course).  I didn’t do the soil drench in the spring but intend to do one last thing in the autumn and again in the spring for next year.
Kind regards, Sue Breetzke (UK)

I have suggested in the past for gardeners to use  potassium permanganate as sprays for rust on any garden plants and have felt that it would be good also for a number of other plant diseases.
Drenching the soil as Sue’s father does with a solution of  potassium permanganate would help wipe out disease spores that are lurking in the soil, under plants waiting for rain or the right conditions to migrate to the foliage and do the damage they cause.

Potassium permanganate used at ¾ a teaspoon into one litre of water with three desert spoons of table salt, dissolved then added to nine litres of water makes a good soil drench for helping to control club root in brassicas. (Drench each planting hole with one litre of the mix prior to planting the seedling.)
This same formula could be used to advantage in areas where you wish to sterilize the soil without harsh chemicals.

Used at this time of the year, under roses and fruit trees, would assist in reducing the disease problems that will likely occur as the season progresses.
This could be very beneficial in stone fruit trees that suffer from curly leaf and bladder plum diseases.

A milder solution of about ¼ a teaspoon per litre of water could be sprayed over the branches and later the foliage when it has emerged for disease control.
An application soon after rain would be advisable as that is a danger time when spores rise up to affect the foliage.

Potassium permanganate is inexpensive as many garden centres stock 150 gram jars for about $12.00 and 150 grams will go a long way.

Gardeners love to have very healthy roses with lots of flowers and this can be achieved if you change the way you garden (if you haven’t changed already and are enjoying lovely gardens)
Firstly do not use rose fertiliser or nitrophoska for their food, both products damage the soil life and can be likened to cheap fast foods.

Instead use only natural products such as sheep manure pellets, blood & bone, dolomite, any animal manures, compost, Bio Boost and Fruit and Flower Power. These foods will feed the soil life, build their populations and help to make for healthier roses. Also apply some Rok Solid to the soil under the roses and give the soil a watering with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL). These will add minerals and elements to the soil not available in either chemical fertilisers or natural products.
Sprinkling Neem Tree Granules on the soil at this time may help reduce insect pests. To ensure that the soil life is not harmed by the chlorine in tap water put a 10 micron carbon bonded filter into your hose line. Alternatively store in a open vessel, tap water, to remove the harmful chlorine.
Chemical sprays that were commonly used for roses appear to do more harm than good as pests and diseases have evolved to be resistant against the chemicals. They are now very expensive, damaging to the environment as well as your health and not the answer to having healthy roses as many gardeners have reported.

Instead use maybe the potassium permanganate as the email suggests for fungus diseases.
Alternative would be sprays of Liquid Sulphur and Liquid Copper (in the blue bottle)
The Liquid Copper 250 ml bottle makes 250 litres of full strength copper spray making it great value for money.
For Insects; Neem Tree Oil will assist in control without harming beneficial insects and will deter possums from eating your roses when applied 2 weekly.
You can make a good difference to your roses with a two weekly spray of MBL and the Neem Tree Oil can be added to this if required.

The key to healthy roses is go natural and put the expensive chemicals in a safe disposal facility.


Editors note: please take precautions when handling any chemicals. Store in appropriate places away from children and read all label precautions. For more information about Condy’s Crystals please follow the link below.


Wally Richards: Coming Up Roses

It is likely at this time that the roses are in an in-between state of losing foliage as they go into dormancy for the winter months. Some may still have flowers and buds, and if you have not removed them, they will have seed pods which are called ‘rose hips’.
These rose hips will contain seeds which you can harvest, and germinate to obtain new young rose plants. What they will turn out like is anyone’s guess, but they will be roses in their own right, and will vary from a good specimen to a so-so rose.
If you wish to try this, all you need to do is cut off the rose hips and allow them to dry on a window sill, then harvest the seeds there in. Germinate them as you would any other seeds in a seedling tray. Another alternative is to use the rose hips in a floral decoration, cut the branch sporting the hips off at a suitable length for the vase, removing any foliage, as it will fall off anyway. They can be used in both dry and living arrangements. TIM – NOT QUITE SURE WHAT HE MEANS WITH THE VASE ALTERNATIVE. DOES HE MEAN TAKING A ROSEHIP CUTTING, BUT USING IT AS A FLORAL DECORATION FIRST?
Now what to do with your bush and standard roses?
As it is now June, we should give our roses a winter rest so they perform at their best this coming season. This means that even if they are sporting nice blooms, you should cut the canes (branches) back to half their length. Remove all the debris and then spray what is left of the canes with Lime Sulphur to burn off any diseases, pests and remaining foliage. If the soil under the roses is free of plants, then spray the soil surface with the same. An alternative to spraying with Lime Sulphur, would be to use Liquid Copper. It is not so effective in the clean up, but is better than not spraying at all.
What you have achieved is to send the roses into dormancy, but you have not preformed the actual pruning, which will come later, say late July or into August. If we were to prune the roses at this time, we could cause new growths to appear which are likely to be damaged by frost or cold winds. If by chance this half-cut was to produce any new growths, they would likely be higher up the cane and would be removed with the final pruning anyway. If you have any potash or wood ash from a fire, this can be sprinkled around the roses now.
If you have a lot of garden area and would like a few free roses, then the canes that you have cut back can be used as cuttings to create new plants. Select the roses you wish to propagate, and take about 16cm-long cuttings. Push these into the soil in a suitable location, burying the bottom of the cutting about 6cm into the earth. Some of these cuttings (if not all of them) will root up in the spring, and produce new foliage.  Once they are established, they can be carefully lifted and transferred to a new rose bed or border to mature. If you have a friend who has a rose that you admire, ask them for a few cuttings. They will come true to the parent.
About now the new seasons roses will be arriving at garden centres and those of you that have ordered roses will be able to collect them. The roses will be either potted up in bags or bare-rooted in sawdust. If they are potted up, you can take them home and just keep the mix moist till you are ready to plant them out. If they are bare-rooted, then you need to keep the roots moist till you are ready to plant them out. The best way to do this is to dig a hole and place the roots in the hole covered with moist soil. Several roses can be held in the same hole.
When you are ready to plant out, lift the roses carefully so as not to damage the roots, and wrap them in wet newspaper. It is very important that the roots are kept moist – if they are allowed to dry out, they can fail.
Roses need to be planted in a full sun situation if you want the best out of them.
If you have a heavy clay soil then you need to mix either peat moss or compost with the soil 50/50. The same also applies to light sandy soils, but make it 70% compost and 30% sandy soil. The above can be mixed in a wheel barrow as you are digging the planting holes. Surplus soil can be used elsewhere in the gardens.
Make the planting hole about twice the size needed to give a nice area for root establishment.
Fill the bottom of the planting hole to the right height with the mix. The right height will be when the rose’s roots are just sitting on top of the mix and the beginning of the trunk is level with the surrounding soil.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of Gypsum over the mix at the bottom of the hole, along with a teaspoon of Rok Solid and a half teaspoon of BioPhos. These products will greatly assist in developing a strong root system, which means a stronger, healthier rose. You may also like to add about a tablespoon of Neem Tree Granules, as this will help protect the roots from grubs.
Once these products have been sprinkled over the mix, cover lightly with a little more mix.
Sit your new rose in the planting hole, and carefully back fill the hole with more mix until the hole is filled. You can finish off by watering some Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) over the rose and planting hole. If there is a dry period during winter, then give the area a good drink once a week.
The roses you buy have not been pruned, only cut back to a height similar to that which I have recommended for your existing roses. This means that later on, you will give them their first pruning. It is very important that you keep the soil around new roses moist for the first year in the ground – after that they are fairly able to look after themselves.
Standard roses will likely need a stake to support them while their roots are establishing, and this stake should be hammered into the planting hole on the side where the prevailing wind comes from. The standard rose is then planted next to the stake and secured with suitable ties. Placing it on the prevailing wind side, means the rose is buffered away from the stake, not against it to cause damage.
In the spring, when you do the final pruning, spray the plant with Liquid Copper and sprinkle some Fruit and Flower Power over the soil surface, along with some Neem Tree Granules. Repeat this about every 6 weeks. This will give the roses the magnesium and potash that they need, and the Neem Granules will help with the control of aphids. I have had a few good reports that the Neem granules greatly reduce the need for spraying the roses for aphids. You can however spray the plants two weekly with the MBL for healthier plants and better flowering.
If you have any problems, ring me on 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Email wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz
Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at  www.sharpei.co.nz

Several gardeners have asked me recently, “What to do with our roses now?”

Propogating from rose hips
It is likely at this time that the roses are in an in-between state of losing foliage as they go into dormancy for the winter months. Some may still have flowers and buds, and if you have not removed them, they will have seed pods which are called ‘rose hips’. These rose hips will contain seeds which you can harvest, and germinate to obtain new young rose plants. What they will turn out like is anyone’s guess, but they will be roses in their own right, and will vary from a good specimen to a so-so rose.

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