Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Grab a Shovel and Start Digging!

It is so much easier to dig up a shrub that you have no interest in saving than to dig up a shrub for transplanting. Even if you've never dug up a shrub, you would probably guess this would be true, but I was surprised by how incredibly tedious it is to save a shrub. We first started digging up the shrubs on the left side of the house with the intention of saving as many as possible, but in the end, it just wasn't worth the effort. The azaleas were spindly, and the huge bean-shaped mass of shrubs was too large to transplant anywhere around our house. In the end, we saved one azalea bush which we gave to Ian's Mom. Shrubs come out of the ground a lot easier when you clip off all their branches, chop off their roots and dig in. It only took us about an hour and a half to get the 4 shrubs out of the ground.

Preparing the soil for the new rose bushes took a lot longer than removing the previous shrubs. We found that our soil is mostly clay, which is really good for roses, but it was compacted and needed to be enriched. We broke up the clay with our shovels and added 10 bags of top soil, 1 bag of soil conditioner, 2 bags of cow manure and 1 bag of peat moss to the bed. We also added 5 lbs of superphosphate, since roses love it.

If the Time-Life Encyclopedia of Gardening taught me anything, it is the importance of well-prepared soil. Soil needs to be able to hold water, yet porous enough to keep water from standing and rotting the roots. Since the clay in our soil could cause root rot due to poor drainage, we mixed in peat moss to lighten it up. Also, soil must be fertile, and there is no better source of nutrients than well-rotted fresh cow manure. Since the garden center at the Farmer's Market was out of fresh cow manure, we had to settle for dried manure, but it is still good stuff. Finally, the soil must be the proper pH for the respective plants. Roses prosper in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. We purchased an electronic pH soil tester from Lowe's for $20 and found that our prepared soil was the perfect pH! I highly recommend investing in the electronic tester, as the one-time use kits cost about $4, and as the name suggests, you get only one use from them.

After one weekend's accomplishments, we were feeling good, but the fun had just began ...


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