|Building-up beds is the most common practice for growing roses successfully
when your drainage is not good. Heirloom Roses owner Peggy-Anne Pineau
explains what’s involved in the process.
|Built-up beds are the best way to ensure that your roses get the drainage they require. It also is the
easiest way to make sure your soil contains all the nutritional elements for healthy growth and optimum
blooms when first planting a rose bed.
Ideally, the best time to do this is in spring for fall planting and in fall for spring planting.
The two main reasons for this are:
1. Earth that is newly dug is porous and full of air pockets. Depending on how much you have worked it will
determine how much it will settle or sink after rains and heavy snow weighs on it. This leaves plants either too low in
the ground (they’ve sunk) or too high leaving them vulnerable to frost heaving and crown damage.
2. Hopefully, you will have added organic matter to the soil making it an optimum-growing medium for roses.
These amendments need time so that the micro-organisms can process it to produce the major elements that your
roses will feed on; unlike synthetic fertilizers that when dissolved or broken down by water give immediate nutrition.
Air, heat (temperature), water and TIME are needed for this process to occur.
Dig a hole a minimum of 16” deep and fill it with water. It should drain away completely within 12 hrs.
· Install some sort of drainage away from the bed, i.e. French drains or drainage pipe.
· Build raised beds (what this article is about)
Here’s what we do for building up the rose beds in our rose garden.
Most vigorous roses need deep rich, loose soil to thrive. Budded or Grafted roses need their bud union four
inches below ground surface for adequate frost protection. That means a pretty deep hole!
To get a good, deep bed that will allow the roots develop the “Deep Bed Method” is best. Simply putting a mound
of soil on the existing ground is not enough. As soon as the roots hit the harder soil they either stop, grow
sideways or up OR at the best they slowly make their way down farther. This is not a good thing if you’re in a
cold, sub zero climates. The deep the roots the better survival of the rose!
2. If you have a rotor-tiller spread your organic amendments (manure, seaweed, compost, old leaves,
alfalfa and most important bone meal) in a deep layer over the area. Now till the soil as deeply as the
machine will allow. This will take several times - each time moving in a perpendicular angle until the existing
turf and amendments are fully mixed and the soil it crumbly. If your soil is full of clay gypsum can be added
per instruction on the bag. This is an excellent amendment to help break up clay and purge the soil of salts
from previous synthetic fertilizing if it was previously a part of your lawn. .
3. If you have only your good old manpower after you plot out the bed, place stakes at all four ends of
the bed and tie a rope around them pushing it down to soil level (so that it’s not in the way when digging but
giving you an accurate guide)
a). Apply the organic matter as above.
b.) Starting at the smallest end dig down the depth of your shovel throwing the soil and amendments
onto a tarp, not onto the bed!
c.) Now, take your shovel or a pick axe and loosen the subsoil (that’s the soil at the bottom of the trench
you’ve just dug). This is especially important if your soil has plenty of clay or is really hard packed.
d.) Dig the second trench next to the first one but instead of putting it on a tarp you are going to throw it
into the bottom of your first trench. Continue to dig along the trench the depth of your shovel while filling the
previous one. Again take a pickaxe and loosen the subsoil. ‘Continue this until the bed is completely dug.
e.) Not take the soil on the tarp and fill the last trench with it.
4. If your soil has good drainage you are now ready to plant next season. Chances are you will have to
build up or add more soil by planting time as this will sink.
5. If you need to build up your beds - now you can add good topsoil from a garden center or soil
supplier up to a minimum height of one foot. Softly pack down all around the edges on a 45-degree angle.
A covering of mulch is advisable as this will help stop weeds that are in the soil from germinating, stop the
earth from washing away or eroding and also stop pounding rain and the weight of snow from over
a.) If you build it up more than this, you’ll need some sort of retaining material such as old logs, rocks,
brick etc. for the soil will eventually erode onto the surrounding area.
Yes, it is a lot of work to build-up rose beds but I can guarantee you the results are well worth it. Healthy,
vigorous roses that would not be possible in poorly drained or clay soil!
|author Peggy-Anne Pineau
|Building-up Rose Beds &
amending the soil for Roses