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Soil Preparation

Preparing the soil for a rose garden.

One positive thing that this drought has taught us all is just how important water is and that we should all have a water saving plan in place. So much more informatio has come out about how to keep your gardens alive and which plants to choose in times of tough drought. Certainly roses have proven themselves once again as one of the best!

So what is the best preparation to put in place before planting out your roses? Choosing the right soil is the key point in getting a good drought tolerant garden started. This only applies if you really need to bring more soil into an area which lacks good top soil. Most likely - your soil will be perfect and does not need replacing. I will get to that in a minute but lets take a look at a situation where new soil has to be introduced.

It is really very simple. Get top soil that is not a sandy loam mix. Here is a simple test you can do. If the soil is even slightly damp, you should be able to squeeze it and it should, (still break up) but generally stick together.

Common sense really. The more sand in a mix, the worse it is. The best soil is straight mountain soil with no additives. Be careful in choosing mixes that contain certain additives. You should buy straight soil (additives free) and then you can top dress the fertilizer on afterwards.(You can see which fertilizer to use under our growing tips)

Having fertilizer mixed in can (in some cases) be to much for certain plants especially in the warmer months as fertilizer should never sit below the top surface. Fertilizer around the roots can burn and no mix is ever the same. Years ago, real dirt (mountain soil) was all you could buy. Over time, suppliers have introduced sand and pine bark into soil to their mixes. Using a straight mountain soil (real dirt) will retain moisture much better than a sandy loam mix. Now with all that in mind - you most likely won't need to introduce new soil anyway. I see too many people going to far too much effort and completely digging out what they believe to be ‘bad’ clay soil and dumping in a sandy loam mix, then wonder why plants die or do very poorly.

When this is done, the water just sits at the bottom, the clay acts like a dam not letting go of water yet still looking dry at the top. And what do people do when things look dry - keep watering it.

Then being so wet at the bottom, it simply rots the roots out. Most people that put very little effort into preparation actually get far better results. We have to remember that roses are tough and don’t need TLC at time of planting. I see programs on TV with people making a massive hole, dumping in a bag of rotted compost and manure, staking it then spreading the roots evenly over a cute little mound - none of that is necessary at all!

For starters, rule number one is no fertilizer or compost around roots. This is the biggest problem causing losses of bare rooted roses. It keeps too much water around roots and the roots don’t spread. Just plant them straight into the soil and top dress with a good organic fertilizer, then water it in and walk away. This procedure should not take longer than 30 seconds per rose, once area is ready. You should not have to water again until the hotter weather and soil starts to dry out.

In winter or early spring - DON’T WATER! So long as soil is damp, it will be perfect. It is very easy to tell if it’s damp - just scratch the surface and have a look. Just a final note on this subject, roses grow well in harder soils so most likely, the soil you have will be perfect. Don’t be pressured by anybody into changing your soil. Send us a sample. if you are really unsure. Many customers who have ordered roses have sent us a small sample and saved themselves a lot of hard work and extra dollars. Our advice is always aimed at keeping it simple, doing it right the first time and getting top results.

Now lets talk about reviving that priceless dirt you already have.

Grassy areas need to sprayed with roundup. Don't worry about the roundup effecting the soil and getting in the roses afterwards as that will not happen. Once the area has been sprayed, you should see the grass really start to die of within 7-10 days. After that period you should water it heavily, put down around 5cms of cow manure (do not use chicken manure as there is to much nitrogen in it) and once thats down - water it again. Keep it moist for a good week before turning it over.

If you have removed large shrubs or trees then there is one ingredient that must be spread over the top of the soil with the cow manure and that Dolomite. Dolomite is rich in calcium that would have been stripped from the soil from large shrubs or other plants that have been in that spot for years. It really livens up tired soils.

No other ingredient should be added even though you read in magazines and see shows on TV that you should add this and that - NO!

Not necessary! Keep your money in your pocket as I have just given you the best advise on starting your roses. The hardest part is actually turning over soils when dry. That is why I suggest to keep the soil moist for a week before starting. It will make a big difference. After a week the soil should be damp enough to make a start. Once turned over, water again and keep damp for another week and then turn over again. Your rose bed is ready. Now all you need to remember is not to over water it. Just keep it damp and not sopping wet. From here you can go straight to our planting instructions for potted roses or bare rooted roses.

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