By Eddie J. Garcia
Proper soil mix, without doubt, is the most important investment you will make in growing healthy, strong, prolific roses. Following the advice of one of SARS charter members and a great rose exhibitor, Robert (Red) Huff ~~ in my starting days of growing roses ~ he told me "never plant a rose in a 50 cent hole". By that, he meant you should make soil a top priority if you want to be successful at rose growing.
The basic formula is 1/3 coarse sand, 1/3 clay, and 1/3 decomposed organic matter. When mixed together, they provide a soil mixture that is light and friable, doing what you want it to do. . This is known as loam, and is what you should do to change your existing soil.
In our area, in most yards you will find caliche or heavy gumbo soil. After years of observing different types of soil mixes in different gardens locally and in other cities throughout Texas, I came to the conclusion that a rose soil mix could be developed for our area. In the fall of 1982, I visited with Malcolm Beck and gave him a formula for growing roses. Malcolm, at that time, was the owner of Garden-Ville Fertilizer Co. and he had the proper ingredients and the mixers to produce the rose soil mix. The rose mix had the following components:
The rose soil mix turned out to be an excellent media for growing roses in our area. Garden-Ville Fertilizer Co. and Fertile Garden Supply have sold the rose soil mix for over twenty years.
One word of caution, it is extremely important that compost be added regularly as a mulch to conserve moisture, but more importantly, the organic material feeds the active micro-organisms as it decomposes, thereby building the soil structure, insuring a constant supply of nutrients and humus. I lay down compost three times a year: December after my winter organic feeding; May in preparation for summer; and, a light coat in August.
Feeding rose plants suffering from poor growth is of little use, unless the soil is first conditioned to a level where the plant can take up and utilize the available nutrients. I have found that the more I use organic feed and compost, I use much less chemical fertilizers.