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I have some beautiful rose bushes at the home I just moved in at Albuquerque. Given the elevation (about 5,300 ft.)and dry climate, what is the best way to take care of them?

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  1. There are five key elements that will help your rose bushes thrive, with the first being proper feeding. Albuquerque soil tends to be sandy and alkaline so I highly recommend taking a soil test before fertilizing so you know not only what nutrients your soil needs, but also the pH of your soil. (A soil pH of around 6.5 is ideal.) You can buy a soil test kit at your local garden center or call your local extension office. Fertilizing should take place as growth begins and after each blooming cycle has ended. Discontinue feeding at least six weeks before your first expected hard frost.

    Compost is crucial to conserving soil moisture and keeping soil cool. Each spring, spread a 3- to 4-inch thick layer of organic material such as compost, pine needles or ground western cedar. The mulch will also enrich the soil as it decays and bring the pH to a better range for your roses. An annual mulch of compost may also provide all the nutrients your rose bushes need.

    Water deeply during the growing season so that the soil is saturated about 16 to 18 inches deep. Again, the mulch will conserve soil moisture so you can water less often. Adequate moisture is essential to good growth and beautiful blooms.

    Provide proper winter care by mounding 12 inches of soil or loose organic matter (such as shredded leaves, straw, etc.) over the base of the rose bush. This will keep canes from drying out during a dry winter. However, a snow cover also doubles as a winter mulch, so whether or not you need winter mulch depends on how much snow you may get.

    Finally, the best time for pruning roses may vary from year to year depending on your weather. An easy way to remember is when roses are coming out of their dormancy and growth buds begin to swell, it’s time to grab a pair of sharp pruners. Good luck in your new home and may your rose bushes bloom beautifully!

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