Soil for roses in the ground

wiguy12(4b/5a)February 28, 2012

Good afternoon everyone! I had a few questions for you now as I am planning my dream gardens (as usual in winter). I live in a part of the state with nearly pure sand soil, and a pH of 4! I have amended the soil with lime to bring it up to 6.5 pH and have black dirt mixed in as well. Can any of you recommend what you use to make your soil perfect for roses? Here it is a harsh winter, and my roses get mounded to the top with soil and then covered in rose cones. I love English roses and hybrid teas, so I would like to see them flourish! My favorite so far has been over the moon and snowdrift, the latter being 5 feet tall and flowering wonderfully without winter protection! The garden area is about 20 ft x 20 ft if you would like dimensions. This area has not been planted with roses before, and so I want them to have the best possible start! Thanks!

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Campanula UK Z8

I don't know where to begin. PH of 4! Even blueberries woulkd find that difficult. Before actually planting anything, do you have a bit of time and money to consider building some raised beds? Using anything from concrete blocks (which you can render and paint) to timber. My garden had no viable soil at all - everything had to be imported in raised beds....but you do get the chance to select a good growing medium, along with designing a small area (and a masterful design makes an enormous difference). I have 2 geometrically shaped raised beds made of blocks and topped with 8inch x2 inch tanalised timber, sytyained black. The whole lot cost less than �200 (you will have to work out the exchange rate). Getting the groundwork done first is the best thing you can do, especially if you are planning on staying in this place for some time. Topsoil can be bought cheaply by the ton and will repay the initial effort many times over.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 6:36AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

When you lime, follow a recommendation from a soil test via ag extension, aiming for pH 6-6.5.

If your soil has very low clay content, add 1-1/2 inches of plain clay cat litter per 10-12" depth of soil. This makes a huge difference in retention of moisture and nutrients. Do not exceed 20% clay,

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 8:48AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Lucky you, wiguy, with your sandy and acidic soil. Every University Extension website I visited state that it's easier to fix acidic soil than alkaline soil. I'll trade my heavy clay soil (pH of 7.7) with yours anytime.

If I have your soil, I would use horse manure with glee and do the environment a favor. Horse manure has been reported to be pH of 8 to 10, depending on how much lime the stable used to deodorize their stalls. I tested mine from a local stable, pH of 8 (fresh), and goes up to 8.5 (well-composted).

The advantage of horse manure as mulch is that you can kiss weeds good-bye. We used to pay a few hundred bucks per year on bark mulch and I still had to spend hours weeding. Now I use horse manure as mulch and there's very little weed, and it's easier to pull up since the horse manure if drier and fluffier.

I didn't realize how lime can suppress weeds until my neighbor told me that the professional lawn company is putting lime on her lawn to solve her weeds problem. The only problem with horse manure is that it's mixed with sawdust, straw, and wood chips - all rob the soil of nitrogen. You can get a giant bag of alfalfa meal at a feedstore for under $15, with NPK of 3-2-2, it will add organic matter and nutrients to your sandy soil. A cheaper alternative is to collect lawn clippings from the neighbors - this stuff breaks down fast and makes the soil really moist. Earthworms love it too. In the fall, leaves provide nutrients for both clay and sandy soil. Leaves are first acidic, then once composted they become alkaline (this is confirmed by University of Illinois Extension and folks in the Soil Forum).

Another advantage of using horse manure with lime is it's cheaper than mushroom compost (also has lime, but sold for $5 or more per bag). Alkalinity suppress fungi growth, so you'll have less rose diseases like rust or black spot. Rust is non-existent in my alkaline soil, and I have zero black spots on my 10 Austin roses mulched with horse manure.

I already checked with folks in the soil forum whether or not the lime, or calcium carbonate, moves down from the surface into the roots. A chemist said no, lime stay put where it's applied. With your acidic soil, you are safe to mix well-composted horse manure into your soil - I can't do it since my soil is too alkaline.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:54AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

I forget that the pH of alfalfa meal is 5 to 6, too acidic for your soil. If you can get mushroom compost or horse manure for free - they are most alkaline with lime. There's a book on roses written by a Californian who grew hybrid teas and florist roses on sandy soil (very successfully).

The Austin roses with many petals do better in my heavy fertile clay soil than hybrid teas. You may have to feed the very double-bloom more often with soluble fertilizer in your well-drained soil. Austin roses are water-hogs and may need frequent watering in sandy soil. I don't water much since my clay soil retains water.

For hardiness of roses including HTs', OGRs, Romantica & Austin - if you click on Krista, a forum member, it will direct you to her member page, zone 4-5, she grows a large selection of roses so you can see which ones are hardy. Her soil is neutral to acidic.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 4:15PM
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stlgal(south z5)

I'd be tempted to do as Campanula recommended. Our soil is heavy clay subsoil, no organic matter. While I have mixed that with peat moss, manure, topsoil, etc and created decent growing conditions for the roses, I prefer replacement over amendment.

For my recent plantings, we did all of the work up front--dug about 2-3 feet down, put in raised beds to about 12" with stone borders and had them filled with an ideal soil mix for rose growing. It is so much easier planting, moving and tending roses when I don't have to worry about fixing crap soil every time I go to put a plant in.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 6:33PM
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Sorry for my late reply! I will start from the beginning! Campanula and stlgal, Thank you both very much for your replies, they are much appreciated! I will have to plant at least one raised bed this year, so I shall use that in my design. One area of my planned bed will be at ground level. and for that I shall use use your advice strawberryhill! I would gladly give you this soil, I am tired of the constant irrigation..... we can get 4'' of rain, and 3 hours later, it is dry! I have an auto watering system that I am thankful for, it measures rain water and sunlight in each part of the lawn, so that is no longer a problem. I have a friend with horses, so that would work out quite well! Do you remember the name of the book? Or is that the part you spoke later of?

Thank you all again, I do appreciate it! Sadly I think my HT's died this winter. It was a warm winter with temperatures changing too rapidly for them I think... we will have to wait until spring before I can see the damage.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 2:52AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi wiguy: I re-read your post and checked out your "Over the Moon" hybrid tea in HMF, it's gorgeous. You mentioned that your winter-protected with a mound of soil and rose cones. Rose cones are notorious for suffocating and denying roses of water. The rosarian Karl Bapst, zone 5a, recommended cutting the top off rose-cones, so rain and snow can hydrate roses for the winter.

I killed a drought-resistant flower-carpet rose once with rose cone. John Moody, zone 5b, mentioned that roses died over the winter NOT from cold, but from drying out. Mounding soil on top is good for wet & heavy clay like mine, but for a sandy soil wet leaves work better in keeping roses moist. I have seen people in zone 5a winterize by making a collar out of yard-waste bag, and stuff leaves inside. Karl Bapst planted his grafted hybrid teas 6" deep, and winterized with some oak leaves.

I agree with Campanula (Suzy) and Stgal that it's easier to order a big pile of dirt (less work and cheaper than amending soil). It's good to check the dirt before ordering. I once ordered a big pile of dirt, to find out that it's the same sticky, alkaline clay as mine. At least it didn't have much weeds and zero stones. Another person ordered a big pile of dirt, to find out that has zero nitrogen. A University Extension recommended stables to add nitrogen to horse manure to get rid of them easier. The free horse manure pile here is the size of a house.

I read that book on planting roses in sandy soil over a decade ago, and don't remember the name. I remember that they use drip-irrigation with soluble fertilizer in sandy soil. It's the acidity that's hard on roses, and not the sand. Problems in very acid soils :

*Aluminum toxicity to plant roots *Manganese toxicity to plants *Calcium & magnesium deficiency *P tied up by Fe and Al *poor bacterial growth *reduced nitrogen transformations. Horse manure, rich in bacteria, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, will solve some of acidic soil's problems - but it acerbates the shortage of nitrogen further. I always mix horse manure with dried blood meal, NPK of 12-0-0, before mulching my roses. Blood meal lasts longer than chemical fertilizer.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 11:16AM
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Thank you so much for your help! You must be very experienced at rose growing! Yes the Over the moon is my favorite, it is deep apricot blushed with pink red and has the most wonderful citrus fragrance of any rose I have smelled. It was my best performer last year, over 4 feet tall! I do not have any pictures of that rose, however I will try to post my "falling in love" rose, it was beautiful as well, though I have not yet figured out how to upload pictures lol. I will use your advice for winter protection as well, though leaves will be hard to come by, I am sure I can find some. We have nothing but 40 acres of red pine here. I will for sure look for the soil as well! Thank you again!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 12:37AM
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Every time I spray my roses, black spot suddenly becomes an overwhelming problem and there are more yellowed leaves than ever before. Has anyone else had this problem?
I usually spray with the already-mixed Bayer.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 5:36PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

rosarama, I think you are using the Bayer product called Natria, which is a bacterial extract. If you want highly effective control in an area with high blackspot pressure, use Bayer Disease Control containing the synthetic fungicide tebuconazole. If you don't want to use synthetic chemicals, I've had reasonable levels of control spraying micronized sulfur faithfully every week, after discarding the most susceptible varieties.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 9:21AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi Wiguy: Thanks for informing me that Over the Moon is over 4' tall. It's nice to find something that tall for my zone 5a, where some HT's are under 2' in June. I re-check the info. in HMF: it has Kordes parentage, excellent disease resistant, and likes rainy climate.

I paid premium membership in HMF so I can trace the rugosa's descendants, and which ones have multiflora parentage - these are the ones I avoid, but best for your acidic sandy soil: Rugosa such as Gilda, Rugelda, Theresa Bugnet, Grootendorst, Violette. Multiflora parentage such as Jeri Jennings, Vineyard Song, Sweet Chariot, Excellenz von Schubert, Yesterday, and Veilchenbleu.

For Austins these Old Rose Hybrids don't do well in alkaline soil, thus best for your soil: Mary Rose, William Shakespeare 2000, Tamora, Jude the Obscure - I'm speaking of own-roots here. It's best if you get everything grafted on multiflora, from Palatine or Pickering (this nursery specified NOT to use horse-manure for winterizing, since it's too alkaline for multiflora-rootstock).

Well-composted horse manure is extremely alkaline - I tried mixing it with peat moss (pH of 4) and alfalfa meal (pH of 5 to 6) and could not bring the pH down to neutral. You are safe to use alfafla pellets mixed in with horse manure for your sandy soil. Alfalfa pellets have NPK of 3-2-2, and it has gunking power like the clay that Michaelg recommended.

The other advantage of sandy and acidic soil is that you don't need peat moss. I once breathe in peat moss dust in the spring, ended up with pneumonia, coughing up blood, tons of chest X-rays, bronchoscopy, and over $4,000 medical bill (insurance paid all - but it was a nuisance).

I'll wear a face mask this spring and use alfalfa pellets instead of alfalfa meal, which is even dustier than peat moss. If you can get lots of pine needles to winterize your roses, that's great. It's neutral in pH, and the Old Country House nursery recommended using pine needles to insulate my newly planted peonies in the fall. Maple trees are soaking wet like grass clippings (85% water by composition) - both of these breed fungal diseases for roses. Oak leaves are best (drier), and has more phosphorus than horse-manure. Pine needles are extremely dry, has little nutrients, but at least it's neutral in pH (I tested it in red cabbage juice as pH indicator after the soil forum folks said it's neutral). Oak and maples leaves are more acidic than pine needles (pH 4 to 5), and become more neutralized once composted (takes a few months).

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 2:17PM
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Hello Strawberryhill,

It is no problem haha, I really have been impressed by Over the moon; It had been fertilized when planted, and then just top dressed the past two years, and it has been my best performer. I would highly recommend it! Thanks for the advice about alfalfa and horse manure, I shall use them! Ouch, your pneumonia sounds terrible, I am very happy you are well again! I will also use the needles to protect as you stated! Here is the picture of my "falling in love" rose, though now I may be confusing it with "sheer bliss" which was planted next to it!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 10:30PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

I love that picture - it's my kind of rose! If you google for "Krista" in this Rose Forum, then click on her name - this will pop up all the roses Krista grows in zone 4/5. She's in New York, neutral to acidic soil like yours. She grows many HTs, Austins, Romanticas, and OGRs. I recommend Austin Eglantyne, Krista' favorite. Eglantyne has the BEST SCENT out of over 1,000 rose bushes at the rose park nearby. Eglantyne HATES my alkaline clay soil, but will do well in a more well-drained acidic soil like yours.

Thank you, wiguy, for the lovely picture, it's the type of rose I want to have.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 10:48PM
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