Preparing The Soil

Roses mass planted closely together are quite a show. Westbroekpark in The Netherlands

Preparing the soil is perhaps the most important step in growing Garden Roses with minimal fuss and care.  And because you generally only get one chance at doing it, it’s worth taking the time to do it right.

Garden Roses planted in healthy living soil are better able to withstand drought and make fuller, healthier plants.

It starts with organics like compost, aged manures and the like.  But make sure whatever you use hasn’t been “sterilized” to the point where it has all the good nutrients and beneficial fungi taken out of it.  For that reason I prefer to use my own compost or some from an organic company.

The other component are the beneficial fungi I just mentioned.  The one you hear most about are known as “mycorrhizae “.  We are just beginning to fully understand just how important they are and since this isn’t the place for a full blown scientific paper, suffice to say they are vital to plant life.  They act in a beneficial way to help your roses get water and nutrients from distances greater than the roots can reach.  This helps your roses withstand drought and makes them healthier all around.

They key to a healthy soil is encouraging beneficial fungi that form a symbiotic relationship with your roses.

There are many ways to prepare soil and I’ll list the basic things I do here.  But since your soil type is different from mine, I suggest you check with your local Agriculture Extension Agent or a Good Garden Center to see what else they recommend for your area.

You won’t add “mycorrhizae” and other beneficial fungi at this stage.  You’ll do that when you actually plant the roses.

Here are a few rules of thumb:

  1. If the area has been grass established go ahead and tear out the grass.  Try to get the roots as well so the grass doesn’t keep growing back up in the bed.
  2. Use a rototiller or shovel and turn over the soil as best you can.  If you are doing a large bed you may consider hiring a tractor with a sub-soiler to really get deep.
  3. Liberally spread and work in aged manure or other form of living, organic compost.  I usually spread it about six inches deep or more.
  4. With the tiller or the shovel work this into the existing soil.
  5. I like to let the soil sit for about a week and better yet get a good rainstorm or watering on it.  This settles the soil and allows water to go deep.
  6. Once you are done planting make sure you mulch!
  7. The only other point I’d make is if you are unfamiliar with your soil in terms of the ph etc, it’s worth your while to get a sample tested.  It will tell you if you need to add some lime or other nutrients.

Taking the time to prepare the soil now means less time taking care of the roses later!

For further information:

  1. Please see our blog post “It’s Alive!  And How To Keep It That Way
  2. Please see our page on Mulching