I don't yet have any incoming links but thought you might want a preview
of this new page I'm working on. I hope to have it ready at least as a
first draft and linked in to my
rose page soon,
by mid-December or so.
This is work-in-progress!
Building my new raised rose bed, Winter 1998-9
During the winter of 1998-1999, I built a large new rose bed. Here in
USDA plant hardiness zone 7B, the ground never freezes, so I could do
this work in the winter. In colder climates, it would be best to do bed building
in the fall.
After including a summary of what you might want to do in building a new
rose bed, I'll give an illustrated history of how I built my bed.
You can find further details on how to maintain and care for your established
garden in my Organic
Rose Gardening presentation, and see some of the results I've enjoyed
on my main rose page.
Note: You can click on any of the pictures below to get a
Plan the garden design. For Hybrid Tea roses, as well as Grandifloras
and Floribundas, plan for 2.5 to 3 feet apart at minimum. Old Garden Roses
grow much larger, as do some Shrub roses. Spend a lot of time with graph
paper and a compass showing the eventual size your bushes should become.
Remember that inadequate spacing can result in increased disease for your
roses as air circulation is cut down.
(You can continue to work on selecting exactly which varieties you will plant
concurrently with bed preparation, but at this stage you should at least
have the dimensions of the bed worked out.)
Prepare the bed. If you have sufficient time before you will plant your new
bed, consider cultivating the area and planting a cover crop. The cover
crop can crowd out weeds, build up soil, and contribute nutrients by being
plowed into the soil after maturing. Some cover crop candidates are:
Sow in fall; sprouts and grows quickly; large nitrogen-rich
leaves crowd out weeds; deep roots loosen tough clay soils;
matures in 8-10 weeks; mass decays fast so makes lots of good
humus when turned under
White Dutch Clover
Sow anytime, winter hardy, stays low
Sow in fall, nitrogen-rich leaves
I won't discuss various options like double digging and no-till, but
your goal should be a good loamy soil that supports nutrients and
reasonable drainage. My preference is to break up the soil to a
depth of a foot or so and then build up organic matter another foot,
containing it all
Secure good non-pressure treated lumber (or other material) to frame the bed.
Aim for 6-12" above the ground, and remember that you may have a few
inches of mulch in the finished bed in calculating how raised you
want the bed to be.
If the wood is freshly milled, stack it with spacers in between boards and
give all the wood several days to cure and dry. To extend the wood's
life, consider applying several coats of a preservative, such as
a homemade linseed oil - wax one that I've used.
Stone makes for an excellent material as well - it lasts with no
treatment. It may be rather expensive and difficult to align
blocks or natural stones for a large bed, but can work quite nicely
for a small bed.
Alternatively, you can skip using any material at all and just plan to
build the beds by mounding organic matter in the next step, but beware
of erosion (you can try planting ground-hugging plants like juniper nearby
to hold the soil, and, of course, mulch will help too) and maintenance of
a neat appearance.
(Have you ever considered using
an old car
as a rose bed?!)
Build up the bed with plenty of organic matter. I like to use a variety
Horse manure is great for roses.
If you have a horse
stable nearby, you probably can have as much horse manure as you want
to cart away (a large fork helps). It is best to have well-composted
manure from horses who have been bedded with wood shavings. (You'll
recognize it for being well-composted because it will break up
like good loam and have little or no odor.) If it isn't well-composted,
beware that it may contain a lot of weed seeds so ideally collect and
compost it yourself for a few seasons or carefully mulch over the
manure to avoid weeds from sprouting.
An excellent material is your own compost (you do compost all of
your vegetable refuse like peels, apple cores, overripe fruit you
won't eat, etc., don't you?!) that turns into lovely "black gold".
Some towns collect autumn leaves and build large piles to allow them
to compost. I find that it can be difficult to dig through
partially composted leaves, so I like to put this at the very bottom
and try not to mix it in very much with the rest of the organic matter.
Earthworm castings are one of the very best soil additives that you can
use - they are a great fertilizer, soil builder, and water retaining
structure. If you compost with worms (vermicomposting), you can harvest
the valuable worm droppings. I have found bags of castings for between
fifty cents and a dollar a pound. Castings are too dear to use liberally,
but I like to add them to the otherwise finished bed and lightly work them
in to the top just before planting.
Roses like it slightly acidic (pH 5.5-6.5; a pH of 1 is extremely acidic and
13 is extremely alkaline), so you probably will
have to acidify your soil a bit. If your soil's pH (have a sample checked
at your local Agricultural Extension office) is below 5.5, which much of the
United States' soil is, then work in 3-4 pounds of lime per 100 square feet (if
you live in an area like certain Western regions of the U.S. where the soil
is actually too acidic, use sulfur to make the bed more alkaline - use
a pound per 100 square feet for pH 6.5-8, and 2 pounds for pH 8-8.5.
I also like to add small amounts of ingredients which you may or may not
be able to readily find (look for organic gardening companies locally or
by mail order), such as Greensand (for trace minerals and to help
with drainage), Lava Sand (trace minerals and drainage), and
Rock Dust (trace minerals).
Don't be overwhelmed by the detail above! It's really pretty simple as long
as you remember to use lots of good organic matter, provide good drainage,
plan the garden and inter-rose spacing, and, most importantly of all, have fun!
In brief, then:
Plan the garden
Build the bed
Plant and mulch the roses
Optionally install an irrigation system
Do some basic maintenance and fertilizing in season
Enjoy lovely flowers!
Excavation and Framing
By early January, I had the site of the new bed excavated. Here
in the Piedmont area of North Carolina, we have heavy clay, so this
was hard work that I had the good fortune to have a number of friends
help with. In hindsight, I should have hired somebody with the right
equipment to do the excavation; it probably would have taken an hour or so.
My neighbor has a friend who enjoys milling lumber, and had a white cedar
he hauled away from somebody's house. The tree had fallen during
Hurricane Fran in September 1996. I didn't want to use pressure-treated
lumber as I had read that such lumber is potentially carcinogenic to handle,
very difficult to dispose of, and leeches arsenic into the soil. I had
plastic lumber - it would last practically forever and maintain its look -
but found it expensive. I decided to have my neighbor's friend mill the cedar
for the bed as cedar is known to last a long time even when in ground contact.
To help extend its life, I came up with a home-made formula - in hindsight, I
wish I had applied it to the wood before
I finally came up with something I really liked on the rec.gardens-edible newsgroup.
Apparently, the USDA
Forest Products Lab does this and it protects wood for 20 years! Here's
Buy a gallon of solvent (I used pure mineral spirits - but you can
also use turpentine or paint thinner). I then took two 6 ounce clean
yogurt containers and poured out and reseved 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces). The
rest (1 gallon less 1 1/2 cups) I put into a paint bucket. Put the 1 1/2
cups reserved back into the can and close.
I then took boiled linseed oil and poured it into the two yogurt
containers, thus measuring 1 1/2 cups. (Alternatively, the recipe
says you can use 3 cups of exterior varnish.) Keep this 1 1/2 cups
of linseed oil handy.
I then took a clean empty small tin can and put 1 ounce of paraffin
wax into it. I put the can into a pan of boiling water and let the wax
Once melted, I took the wax outside where all the other reagents
were ready. I started stirring the mineral spirits then slowly (but not
too slowly - you don't want the wax to solidify!) poured in the liquid
wax, continually stirring. Finally, I added the 2 yogurt containers of
(1 1/2 cups) linseed oil.
This was the consistency of water, and I just brushed it on the
cedar liberally. I have done a coat and a half, and will make it at least
2 coats totally. This should be a real boon because linseed oil repels
water and has fungicidal properties. The wax should also help to keep
water away from the wood.
I was going to next staple 6 mil thick clear plastic inside the full bed,
but Moira and Tony, as well as Brodie, all OGL "all stars" :-), have
warned against it. My rationale was it would keep the soil away from the
wood, but our friends have advised that the plastic over the years will
break into pieces (even 6mil? That is surprising!) that will contaminate
Filling and Drainage
Planting and Irrigating
Drip irrigation is perhaps the best way to water. I found an excellent resource
in the web-based dripirrigation.com.