raised bed for roses?

aqrose(7b NE GA)September 14, 2009


I need to build a raised bed or two to plant a bunch of roses before much longer. I was hoping to be able to make it with something more attractive than landscape timbers, but find I cannot afford that at this time.

My question for you is how many of the type in the picture will I need to stack up to get the appropriate planting depth for roses? Would 3 tall, as shown, suffice?

Thank you,

Michelle :)

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Tuff bricks could be a nice option too.
Anyway, IMO 2 feet is enough for most roses, unless you are going to plant a very big rose, and one feet is too less unless you are going to plant mini-roses.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 7:57AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Well, it depends on what's underneath and why (whether) you need to raise the bed. If it's over pavement, then 16-24". If it's over Piedmont clay, you may not need any structure. Slightly raised beds look best without a curb or wall, unless you use natural stone.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 10:02AM
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I converted my whole garden of over 300 rose bushes to raised beds to improve soil quality and help me control the incessant weed growth.

I experimented with the height as I progressed and I found that four to five logs high was the ideal height. The down side was that such height required loads more potting soil, but since I was purchasing it by the yard it ended up being fiscally feasible.

Since the conversion all my roses have done much better in strength and vigor. The down-side would be that your soil will tend to dry out much faster than planting directly in the ground, but since I live in the lightning and rain fall capital of the continental U.S. I find this has been an asset.

Another piece of advice: wait until your local big box stores place the logs on sale. Down here Lowes and Home Depot retail the logs for $3.95. I would check online regularly for weekly ads until the logs would go on sale for $1.95 (nearly 50% off!). When searching on the web know that Home Depot calls them Landscape Lumber and Lowes has them down as Landscape Timber. This is minor note until you are looking everywhere on the site and can't find the item by its common name.

Good luck and keep us posted (no pun intended, lol).


    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 10:31AM
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bobby_c(z7 DC)

I built several raised beds early this summer along a fence, they are over what used to be lawn, so depth wasn't a huge issue as I worked up the ground underneath pretty well. I planted Zephirine Drouhin Climbing Roses and they are doing very well. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the beds with roses, but here's one of the beds:

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 1:06PM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

Why you are building the raised beds is a factor to be considered. If for the height due to a disability, it would depend on what's comfortable for you. If to have good soil for the roses, keep in mind the feeder roots are in the top six inches of soil. Anything deeper than that is wasted if you're doing it for the rose bush. To make sure the rose is deep enough and to allow for the soil to be a little lower than the top, I think three high is sufficent.
For grafted roses with a long root system, you may want to dig down into the native soil for each root system to avoid having to have a raised bed deep enough for the entire root system to be buried at the proper level.
For instance, a bush with a ten inch long root system as measured from the graft (bud union), you'd need to dig each hole down 4-5 inches into the native soil to allow the portion with feeder roots to be in the top 6 inches for a raised bed two timbers high, as opposed to a raised bed of three timbers high for not having to dig into the native soil. That could mean the difference of 1/3 more timbers and 1/3 more cost plus 1/3 more soil purchased to fill the beds.
Landscape timbers vary in measurement. Two years ago when I bought several hundred to line all my beds, some were twice as big as others. I had to check them out before buying them to make sure they were the correct size.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 3:45PM
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allison64(So Cal San Diego 10)

I built 3 new rose beds two raised and one ground level. The one thing about the raised is it is easier to work with the roses because of height. You don't have to squat or kneel which gets old real quick. If possible make ease and comfort a consideration when deciding height. You will be able sit on the timbers and work and will find that a big help.

I think your choice of the timbers is great. They will look very nice!


    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 3:57PM
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aqrose(7b NE GA)

Thanks so much for all the replies! I appreciate it! :)
The beds will be going in front of my house where the old foundation shrubs have died due to the droughts we've suffered in the past few years. I want to do raised beds so I won't have to do any (or much) digging. I just don't have it in me right now to do it the usual way. The ground is just horrible there with old pine tree roots, rocks, the roots of the azaleas a few feet away, not to mention the poison ivy roots that I never seem to realize I've grabbed until after I break out. I'm highly allergic to that stuff!
Anyway... I was wanting to build them out of the pretty stone-like retaining wall blocks at Lowe's in a nice gentle curve, but that'll have to wait for some time while I save up for it.
The timbers in the picture are on sale at Home Depot for $1.97 right now. Good price, right? Now I just have to find some dirt & compost on sale. LOL! :)
I'm so glad to know that about the feeder roots being in the top six inches of soil. That will be very helpful for this project. I only wish I'd known that in the past on other projects. It would have saved me a lot of time, money, & hard labor! LOL!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 5:02PM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

You should know those old pine tree roots and the roots of the azaleas tree will grow up into the new soil quickly as they seek the nutrients. They'll grow quicker and bigger, especially if you apply more water. A small grove of three 10 feet tall pine trees eight years ago when I moved here quickly grew to three 30 feet tall trees with all the water and fertilizer supplied to the roses growing nearby. The soil in the nearest beds can't be worked without scratching up tree roots near the surface. Because of all my rose beds, all the fir/pine trees in the yard have gotten really large.
If you supply a good environment, the roots will come and the trees will grow.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2009 at 11:54PM
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aqrose(7b NE GA)

You raise some good points. :)
I should have specified that the pine tree was cut down 4-5 years ago so it won't be an issue. But I hadn't considered the azaleas doing that. They surrounded that same pine tree and have been there for over 30 years. They're enormous but 5-6 feet away. Do you think they will still be a problem?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 2:35AM
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Lowes has a wonderful open bag policy. If its open then you get it at 50%. I very careful but I usually get near full bags of top soil, compost and mulch. This has saved me a lot of coin. Good luck with your bed.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 5:14AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

A devil's advocate post.

Within 5-10 years the timbers will be full of termites. Do you really want this structure next to your house?

Although roses will grow in it, the various bagged muck at the garden center is not soil and not permanent. Bacteria will eat it at the rate of 1" per year in a warm climate. It should be used to amend mineral soil.

Instead of buying all this stuff, maybe you should hire someone to dig for a day under your supervision. You could install plastic barriers to keep out the azalea roots.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 10:17AM
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I just put together an 80 square foot raised bed frame out of 2x10x10s--ours is a little different in that it also supports four 7 foot posts for climbing roses--two in the front corners and two in the back--offset to accomodate a garage window. The whole thing is held together by dozens of 5/16 and 1/4 inch steel hardware--it was a little tricky getting all the holes to line up, but a little work with a rubber mallet and everything fit just fine. The soil underneath is actually quite good--I plan to mix it with our compost pile, after I have screened out the twigs and other large pieces.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 1:43PM
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jont1(Midwest 5b/6a)

I am going to put in a raised bed for 20 miniature roses and I am on the fence on some issues as well.
I am not sure of the soil mix to go in the bed.
I am thinking I will need to use rebar or something like that to keep the upper timbers from moving around.
I am planning to mow the underneath grass super short and put down a single layer of newspaper in the bottom and then line the inside of the timbers with stryfoam to keep the soil from leaking out and help stabilize the soil temperature in coldest winter and hottest summer.
What do you think?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 1:30AM
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greenhaven(SW MI z6)

John, I think weed barrier would be a better choice than styrofoam. Styrofoam would really make your soil in that bed take longer to warm up in the Spring. Also, if you are going to line the bottom of the bed, go ahead and use several layers of newspaper or heavy cardboard. I have had weeds pop through one layer with relative ease, even with soil over! I would think there would be no reason not to use standard soil/top soil in your raised bed. I built one a few years ago, and mixed a bale of peat with top soil. It's fantastic growing medium, but it is almost TOO friable. It does not hold water well now that the peat has broken down quite a bit. It does make planting easy, though!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 9:15AM
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I've used rebar to hold up walls of five logs or higher, but everything else is held by PVC. It's cheaper is gives a bit to accomodate the natural shift that takes place as soil and roots setle in.

I don't have the freezing ground problem, so I don't know what to recomend for the lining.

I agree with greenhaven that cardboard is better than newspaper to line the bottom of the beds. I'm kicking myself for not having given a little extra effort in that department as crab grass and its extensive agressive root system has all but taken over two of my new beds already ($%^#&^@ crab grass!!!!).


    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 6:11PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Timbers in a rectangular bed should have the ends overlapped in an alternating pattern like a log cabin. Then the frame can easily be nailed together to make a stable structure.

I doubt that rebar will hold anything vertical over a substantial period of time. It moves through wet clay or silt soil in response to pressure.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2009 at 6:22PM
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Actually, I've used rebar to stabilize the timbers and they have held up quite well in our Mississippi red clay! You just use a hole bit to drill the holes on each log. Because the logs are not exactly the same length, it's not a bad idea to drill them while stacked, leaving an imprint on the next log. Pound in the rebar (make sure to have the utility companies out to mark the lines in your yard) and then cover the stack with a 2x4 to keep the rain out of the holes and rusting the rebar. I hope this helps!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 8:27PM
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alameda/zone 8

Has anyone ever used cinder blocks for a raised bed? I am considering making some beds out of these - they can be painted and there are caps that can be used on the tops - there is a cement glue that can hold them together, plus pour concrete in some of the holes and set with 2' pieces of rebar so they should last for years. I don't want to construct any more beds with landscape timbers - though they work well for some years parts of mine rot and must be replaced. Plus, someone told me the chemical used to treat them was not as strong as it used to be [saving money for the company] so they rot quicker. Any thoughts from anyone who has used the cinder blocks?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 9:01PM
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