Moving roses--soil advice?

WestTexasRose(7)January 28, 2006

Dear all,

I thought I'd get your input because I'm starting with a blank slate. Long post--please hang in there.

I have been organically growing roses in my backyard for two years. I get an acceptable flush of blooms in May, and then very, very sporadic blooming for the rest of the season (these varieties should be blooming much more often). I did my research before I bought them, and bought primarily own-root resistant varieties like New Dawn, plus four moments of weakness from J&P and a local store.

They were planted in Mel Bartholomae's mix, 1/3 compost created by our town, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 peat moss. I fertilized occasionally with an organic fish/seaweed emulsion. The beds were 8 inches deep of Mel's mix, on top of unloosened soil.

I think my main two problems were that the soil was absolutely not deep enough and that they weren't receiving enough sunlight in my backyard (which leafed out very late in the season, after I had installed too many roses).

I took a test rose and planted it in the front yard. Trying to be a good researcher, I only changed one variable--the sun. I didn't plant it deeper or add fertilizer. It bloomed and grew significantly more than it did in the backyard, even when I forgot to water it perfectly because it was the only rose in the front yard.

So, here comes the advice part. DH is building me raised beds that will be 2.5 feet deep (1.5 feet above soil level, 1 foot below) in the front yard which receives very much sun. I am considering filling them again with Mel's Mix, but our town has since discontinued our compost program and I would have to buy cotton burr compost at the local lumber yard. I worry that it might not have enough nutrients in it, being compost of only one plant (plus, it will be pricey with such large beds).

So, I thought I would ask all of you what you think I should use for the soil. Should I go with the same recipe with different compost? Should I use our own dirt (which has never been analyzed because we used only Mel's mix in the past) with vermiculite and peat moss? Should I work in alfalfa pellets?

Thanks very much, and I'll post pictures of the before and after if anyone is interested,

West Texas Rose

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elks(US5 Can6)

Well, I don't live in Texas, so should be minding my own business, but (don't you just love 'but'?), I'm a firm believer in managing the native soil if at all possible. That means adding organic material, lots of it, to the new bed. The best, of course, is compost, but it could be leaf mold or anything that will be broken down by the soil critters. For example, here in SW Ontario, the soil is heavy clay, a little sweet (7.3 pH), with a very high calcium (lime) content. It is managed with 4" of mulched leaves each fall, some compost (when I'm feeling nice) and the nitrogen (Urea) and magnesium (epsom salt, but I use K-Mag) it needs, discovered from the results of a soil test.
Field Roebuck is a Texan, I believe. He frequents here now and then and wrote a good book on roses which has the best section on soils I have ever read in one. I had a link to his website, but it no longer works. Perhaps another forum member will know his new one.
Hope this helps,

    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 6:18AM
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Roses need a soil well endowed with organic matter that is evenly moist but well drained. Bartholomews soil mix is a good start, although you could find something locally to replace the peat moss such as shredded leaves. I've not been able to get to Fields website the last few times
I tried, but his book on growing roses is available from a number of places online.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 6:36AM
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elks(US5 Can6)

Found it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Field's Website

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 6:48AM
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Hi Steve and Kimmsr,

Thanks for the advice! Field's website was helpful. We have the clay soil he talks about, but I need to do a little more research to find out if they're exactly the same. It's a great lead.

I think I'm going to do compost plus native soil, and skip the peat moss entirely as it's expensive and, from Field anyway, unnecessary. Wish me luck!

WT Rose

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 2:43PM
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