by Bill Clark
If you are thinking about building a new garden or expanding existing gardens, now is the time to get serious about the preparations. If you are building a new garden, you'll want to integrate a good watering system, and of course, you will want to fill the bed with top quality rose soil.
Bed Building is a much discussed item amongst rosarians and most, if not all, have their own hardened ideas as to how a rose bed must be constructed and the type of soil that must be used in that bed. Nowadays there are countless materials available at local nurseries and hardware stores that can be used to construct beds which will add an attractive dimension to the landscape.
In my opinion there are a few "MUSTS" that one should observe when building a new bed in this area if you are serious about successfully growing roses or anything else in the garden. The bed must be constructed in a location where natural water drains away from the bed, not into the general area of the bed. You must build a raised bed. The height of the bed should probably be no less than six inches and preferably eight to twelve inches high. Any and all grass within the bed area should be removed/eradicated before you start building that new bed. If you don't remove the grass it will be a source of much frustration after you have constructed and planted the bed (if you don't believe this one, ask David Neuman!!). All existing soil within the bed area, down to about six to twelve inches, should be removed and hauled away or modified.
When Jackie and I build a new bed we follow a very basic and simple process: Mark out the area where the bed is going to be and observe the location and bed design for a few days - it's much easier to make modifications at this stage. We then build the bed framing on the existing soil level by taking a regular shovel and systematically removing and disposing of the soil (and the grass) - one shovel blade length deep (about 10 inches). Loosen the top of the remaining soil, with a tiller or fork, to a depth of about six inches adding some type of soil amendments such as gypsum and vermiculite. Fill the bed with soil and let the soil settle for at least a couple of weeks before planting.
I personally like to use pressure-treated (ground contact) 4" x 4" lumber for my bed framing. This material has worked for us over the years and we will continue to use it as long as it is available. However, other materials are readily available at reasonable costs. For more detailed information on bed building check out the SARS "How to Grow Roses" book.
Watering Systems are much like bed building - most people have strong ideas on the subject and are firmly convinced that their system is the best there is. I am no exception - in my mind I have the ultimate watering system! Technology within the irrigation field has come a long way in the past few years. Actual watering devices and electronic or manual timers are now very user-friendly. Automatic or semi-automatic systems are readily available at most good nurseries or hardware stores and can easily be installed by most "handy-persons". Professionally installed systems are also relatively inexpensive these days. Jackie and I have used the "dramm" watering system for many years and will continue to use it for the foreseeable future. This is a very effective and user-friendly system that has recently been modified so that it can be installed by anyone in a matter of hours. Probably the best watering system is a good water wand attached to the end of the hose, however, this system requires many hours of your undivided attention on a regular basis.
The main point here is that YOU MUST HAVE SOME TYPE OF WATERING SYSTEM and it is absolutely essential that you MANAGE whichever system you select. The easiest and cheapest way to check out different bed-building techniques and watering systems is by visiting gardens - we have a very diverse collection in this area and rosarians are always very happy to share!