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Stan V. (Stan the Rose Man) Griep, American Rose Society Certified Consulting Rosarian
Photographs: Stan V. (Stan the Rose Man) Griep

Creating a nice rose bed on your property is not a major task. Just a little time properly preparing the soil for the rosebushes new home will go a long way to the enjoyment of your roses for several years to come.

Pick a spot for your rose bed that gets good sun, about 6 hours of sun is sufficient to get good rosebush performance. I prefer a spot that gets a lot of good morning sun as well as getting a bit of afternoon shade. The allowance for some afternoon shade helps protect the rosebushes from the sun’s most intense times and the heat associated therewith.

Make note of the direction in which the area for the new rose bed drains. If the area is too flat, it will not drain properly and will retain too much water, possibly leading to salty soils and other problems such as root rot, as well as oxygen starvation to the root systems. If the area currently has drainage problems, more soil can be added to help create the drainage slope needed.

If the spot picked is currently a grassed area, the grass and the majority of its root systems must be removed. Taking the grass and roots out to a depth of two to three inches will be fine. If the spot picked has a lot of weeds upon it, I recommend taking off the top two to three inches of soil doing your best not to mix any of the top soil with that beneath it. This will help keep the weed seeds from getting into the remaining soil where they could sprout and cause some weeding work later.

After the grass or upper soil’s removal, use a good and powerful tiller to till the soil, going in two opposite directions. This turning of the soil may be done with a shovel and garden fork as well. Once the soil in the new rose bed area has been well tilled or turned, it is time to add some amendments to make the soil a nice home for our rosebushes root systems.

When one brings up the topic of soil for roses, there are some definite concerns with the makeup of the soil. Here are some tips for putting together soil that is the best for growing rosebushes and will have them perform well.

We need to look at the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. We must keep them healthy in order for the proper breakdowns of the elements that provide the food for our rosebushes to absorb. Healthy microorganisms will crowd out pathogens (the disease making bad guys) in the soils by competitive exclusion. In the process of competitive exclusion, the beneficial microorganisms reproduce themselves quicker than the bad ones and sometimes even feed upon the bad ones.

Keeping the microorganisms happy and healthy will usually involve adding organic materials/amendments to the soil.

  • Alfalfa meal (Alfalfa Meal is a good source of nitrogen and is nicely balanced with phosphorous and potassium, plus it contains Triacontanol, a growth regulator and stimulant.)
  • Kelp meal (Kelp Meal is a slow release Potassium source providing over 70 chelated trace minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and growth promoting hormones.)
  • Compost (Compost is decomposed organic matter that increases microorganism activity and improves the overall quality of the soil.) There are some great organic composts on the market in bagged form, just be sure to flip the bag over to read what all is actually in that compost.

You can also make your own compost fairly easily these days with the compost maker kits at local garden centers. Roses prefer a rich loamy soil that drains well. They do not like to have their root systems in soggy wet soils but cannot be allowed to dry out either. A nice pliable moist feel to the soils is what is desired. Nature has a way of telling the gardener when the soils are good. The earthworms come into the soil and are easily found there. The earthworms help aerate the soil thus keeping the oxygen flowing through it and keeping the entire biological process in good balance, working as a well oiled machine so to speak. The worms further enrich the soil with their castings (a nice name for their poo…), it is like getting free fertilizer for your roses, and who does not like that!

A good soil makeup for roses is said to be; 1/3 clay, 1/3 coarse sand and 1/3 decomposed organic matter. When mixed together, these will give you the right soil blend for providing the best of soil homes for your rosebushes root systems. Once you have felt the texture of this properly blended soil go through your hands and fingers, you will easily recognize it from then on.

Next month, In The Dirt will have Stan’s recommendations for rose soil pH and how to achieve the optimum level for roses.

Stan V. Griep
ARS Certified Consulting Rosarian, Webmaster: The Colorado Rosarian, Green Cure Representative - CO
Member: American Rose Society, Member: Denver Rose Society, Member: Loveland Rose Society,
Honorary Member: The Rose Society of South Australia
Award Winning Rose Photographer, Rose Gardening Freelance Writer & Speaker
Visit The Colorado Rosarian Site:
Please Visit My On-Line Shop:

Posted June 14, 2013

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