What’s soil got to do with it?

by Ron Daniels, ARS Consulting Rosarian, Master Gardener

digging dirtWhen I talk to people about how to grow roses I always spend a lot of time talking about soil. As one of my mentors told me years ago; “Don’t go buy a twenty dollar rose bush and put it in a fifty-cent hole (soil).” What he was saying is put your time, money, and preparation in creating good healthy soil to grow your roses; they will love it.

This is what you need to have good soil. A mixture of 1/3 sand and 1/3 clay (topsoil) and 1/3 humus (organic matter). You can amend existing soil with sand and organic matter or build raised beds, which is my favorite. With a premixed blend of soil that has sandy loam in it already I like a product called Holy Cow Soils. This product has everything you need to have good soil to grow roses. With worm casting as one of the organic matters; this should give you a loose soil structure that will allow air, water and fertilizer to move freely in the soil.

Remember, soil is alive with beneficial microbes and fungi that stimulates root development and increases micronutrient availability to your roses. So, once you have good, live soil; keep it healthy. Keep adding organics and adjust your soil to the right texture and acidity. Keep pH between 6.2 and 6.7 (6.5 being ideal); lime to bring it up and sulfur to bring it down.

After you have this good, healthy and organic soil, you will soon own your own business with lots of workers. It will be your own fertilizer factory with earthworms producing worm castings that will provide organic matter for your soil and roses. They will also turn soil over for good water and air circulation around the roots. Just pay them with organic matter and the worms will do the rest. You now have good, healthy soil and it has everything to do with having great, healthy rose bushes and blooms.