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Creating the Best Soil for Roses

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If you have the best soil for roses, your new roses will get off to a better start. Here are important steps to help you create great soil.

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Test the Soil pH

Perform a pH test on your selected planting location. Kits to test soil pHare readily available at most garden centers. Soil pH is assessed on a scale of 0 to 14. Neutral soil is 7. Acid soils (called “sour” soils) are those with a pH less than 7 and alkaline soils (“sweet” soils) are those that are above 7.

The best soil for roses generally has a pH between 6.5 and 7.0, although roses can survive in a wider range of pH. If your soil pH is not good for roses, you can change the soil conditions.

It’s usually easier to make soils more alkaline than it is to make them more acid, although it’s best to make it a long-term project. Test your soil each year and make adjustments gradually. You can add lime, hardwood ash, bone meal, crushed marble, or crushed oyster shells to raise the soil pH (that is, increase alkalinity).

To lower the soil pH (make it more acid), you can use sulfur, sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold, or peat moss.

Determine the Type of Soil

The best soil for roses is a loam soil. Soil is composed of many particles of varying sizes that are classified into three major groups:

  • Sand particles are the largest and tend to hold little water but allow good circulation of air.
  • Clay particles are very small and tend to pack down so that water does not drain well and little or no air can penetrate.
  • Silt particles are medium sized and have properties in between those of sand and clay.

A mixture of sand, silt, and clay in roughly the same amounts is called loam. Loam soil is ideal for most garden plants, including roses, because it holds plenty of moisture but also drains well so that sufficient air can reach the roots.

The soil should feel light and, if you squeeze it, it should crumble. If it is too sticky or sandy, then you need to adjust the soil mixture.

If you have a heavy, compacted soil, add organic matter (such as compost, animal manure, cover crops, or organic mulch materials) each year as you work the soil. It may take several years, but eventually the soil will become less compact. Although adding some sand along with the organic matter is acceptable, do not add sand alone. The organic matter offers several advantages that sand does not, including increased ability to hold water and nutrients and improved air circulation.

Highly sandy soils hold little water and few nutrients. You can improve sandy soils by adding organic materials. You need to add at least a two-inch layer of material to make a marked improvement.

Till the Ground

Till the soil in the area you want to plant your new roses to circulate the dirt and let in some air. Tilling can also turn up objects that shouldn’t be in the ground. You want as little stress on your new rose plant as possible so it can adjust to the new environment. Foreign objects in the ground can cause all sorts of problems.

Check the Drainage

The best soil for roses has proper drainage. Before you plant your roses, make sure that the water does not drain out of the ground too slowly or too quickly. You can test drainage by digging a hole about one foot deep and filling the hole with water. The water should be absorbed in 15 minutes.

If it takes less than 15 minutes, then you need to alter the soil mix so it can retain more water. Add organic matter to increase the water retentiveness of the area. Be careful when adding organic material, because if you add too much, the soil will become too acid.

If it takes longer than 15 minutes for the water to be absorbed, then you need to improve the drainage. You can increase the drainage by adding peat moss, but don’t add too much because it decomposes very slowly and can affect the pH level of the soil.

Get Expert Help

If you’re not sure how to create the best soil for roses, consult your local agricultural extension or gardening expert.

Updated: April 22, 2013 — 2:48 am

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