How To Prepare Your Soil Before Planting Your Roses
A Little Bit Of Work Here, Saves A Lot Of Work Down The Road!
Rose Informational Page

by Bob Bauer
Good Healthy Soil Is An Ecosystem
Soil is more than just dirt. It is more than clay, silt, sand, and dead plant matter. It is a complex pile of fungi, bacteria, worms and other organisms working together in a continuously changing environment. What are they all doing? They are all eating and having sex. The byproducts of this activity produce the nutrients that plants need to grow. The plants and their roots are an intimate part of this system. When you have a complete and healthy soil, all of these things are working together and the plants are performing at the peak of their abilities. Nine tenths of gardening is creating nutritious healthy soil. Give them the right home and the plants know what to do from there. Healthy soil will reduce plant fungus diseases and reduce insect infestations. Why? Because their predators will be present there as well. The Soil ecosystem has developed over hundreds of millions of years, and so you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to help it along.
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Figure Out Your Soil Type
This is very important. First of all figure out if you have clay soil, Sandy soil, Loamy soil, Rocky soil or whatever. Knowing what your soil is will allow you to figure out what it needs in terms of extra nutrients, how frequently you should water, or whether you have good or bad drainage. Clay soil usually means bad drainage, less frequent watering, high soil alkalinity (high pH), and the need for the addition of large amounts of organic matter. Sandy soil means great drainage, need for more frequent watering, and also the need for the addition of organic matter (compost, manure, grass clippings, etc). High organic soil usually means high acidity (low pH), good drainage, good soil moisture retention, and the need for a little crushed limestone in order to increase the pH.

Roses need a pH of about 6.5 in the soil. This is slightly acid soil. Neutral soil is 7.0. Alkaline soil is above 7, acid soil is below 7. The type of soil that occurs in forests is usually acid loamy soil. That type of soil that occurs in valleys is usually clay or sandy soil. If you are really fastidious you should send off samples of your soil to a soil testing lab in your state. Most states have them.
This rose gets very tall
'Arizona'
Adding Organic Materials And Soil Amendments
Almost all soils can benefit from the additon of more organic matter. If you are starting with an empty bed, now is the time that you can make a difference. Add as much composted (rotted) organic material as you can afford. It is almost impossible to add too much. Compost can be purchased at the Nursery or Garden Center or from other local sources. Shovel the compost onto the beds and then dig it in with a shovel or better yet, a roto tiller. If you are amending the soil in the fall, you can add materials such as manure, grass clippings or leaves, because they will have all winter to rot into the composted material you want. Dig this stuff into the soil as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.

In addition to organic matter, sometimes your soil needs other amendments. Things such as ground limestone in order to increase the pH. Or other rose beneficial things such as bone meal, blood meal or a bit of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) fertilizer. Good rose fertilizers have an NPK ratio of 1:2:1. More phosphorous leads to better blooming. Adding too much nitrogen will result in too much foliage and too few blooms.
Changes color as it ages
'Kaleidoscope'
Digging And Aerating
Even if you don't add any soil amendments, it is very important that you dig or till the soil EVERY season. For new beds you will want to turn the whole bed over in the fall and again in the spring with a shovel or a roto tiller. If you are dealing with existing roses, you should turn all of the soil over with a fork about 1 foot away from the bush and loosen the roots with a garden fork all around the rose in the spring. This is a good time to add fertilizers and small amounts of other amendments such as alfalfa pellets, epsom salts (Magnesium Sulphate), fish emulsion or manure tea. Fertilizers and amendments should always be dug into the top layer of the soil around the plant.
Perfect Rose Soil
So what is PERFECT rose soil? It has about 50 percent organic matter and the rest is an equal mixture of clay, silt and sand. It has a pH of 6.5. It has worms living there. It has uncounted bacteria and fungi living there. It has organic matter in all stages of decay present. It is light yet not too light. If you grab a handful and crush it, it stays together, but does not form a clod. You can physically push your fingers down into it a few inches, but not down to your elbow. When it is wet, it is not muddy, when it is dry it is not concrete. How will you know if your soil is great? Your friends, family and neighbors will all start talking about your huge healthy plants and what a green thumb you have. Green Thumbs are all about healthy soil.
When All Else Fails, Dig A Hole And Fill It With Potting Soil
If you don't want to go to all of that trouble, I have good news for you. The Lazy Person's Way To Great Roses: Dig a hole about 2 feet in diameter and 18 inches deep in whatever crappy soil you have. Pour a two cubic foot bag of nursery potting soil into the hole. Then go ahead and plant your rose. This method works like a charm, but can get a bit on the expensive side depending on how many roses you are planting.

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