Personal Gardening (Part 2)

Where we left off, I had just gotten a clean slate in our backyard to start what I call my 2020 "COVID Garden." 

A funny little back story, my wife and I met in college. We were both Forensic Anthropology majors; a very small program, I think there were about 8 in our major for the class of 2014. Apart from several biology, chemistry, and anthropology courses, we had to take an Intro to Archaeology course. In the course, we learned to "stake out" a dig site into quadrants, as a way to keep track of what you've dug up from specific areas. It helps to create a "map" of the site (a large amount of bone fragments for example could be a burial site, whereas pottery fragments and charred wood could be an indication of where they cooked their food). This was the only "field experience" we had. Otherwise, we worked in the osteology lab sorting and identifying what the archaeology majors dug up.

Anyways! This Intro to Archaeology course came in handy for gardening. We staked out where the new garden beds would be and started digging. 😅

(Here my wife poses with her handiwork.)

(The girls are helping to dig out new beds too!)

(New garden beds ready to go!)

We dug these two garden beds in front of the lattice sections of the pergola. Each garden bed is about 4' x 8'. We dug down about 2' the whole way through to remove as much rock as possible and as many trumpet vine roots as possible. The old soil was not great, and our grass was not great. So we decided to take the dirt we were digging up, spread it out in the grass part of our yard, put down grass seed, then cover it in a thin layer of "grass soil." We filled these two new garden beds with Master Nursery "Bumper Crop" soil and cow manure. After digging out these new garden beds, I put down a weed barrier (our yard is notorious for weeds and of course, baby trumpet vine shoots have a tendency to pop up all over!) 

(Weed barrier and edging in place. Notice the little metal sign in each garden bed? I'll get to that soon!)

Being the huge David Austin fan that I am, I knew I wanted to plant climbing roses on this pergola. After receiving my 2020 David Austin Roses Handbook in the mail, and after browsing their website and various blogs/Facebook groups, I decided on purchasing two "The Generous Gardener" roses. I ordered them directly from David Austin (in the United States, they ship their roses from Tyler, Texas) as bare root roses.

Bare Root Roses:

Bare root roses are pruned to be a few fairly short canes with bare roots - meaning they're not potted in dirt and sent in a somewhat dormant state. I really like ordering roses this way because:

1. It's cheaper - both for the rose itself and the shipping costs are lower because they weigh much less.

2. It's "greener" - no plastic containers that get thrown away as soon as the rose is put in the ground. 

3. It's less of a "shock" for the rose. Since the rose is pruned quite short, the roots (the "below ground" part) are usually bigger than the canes (the "above ground" part). Rather than expending its energy on trying to maintain several large canes, leaves, and buds, it can focus on growing out its root system first. 

Quick Bare Root Planting Tutorial:

When you receive your bare root roses in the mail, the first thing to do is to set them in a bucket of water (just the roots) and soak them for at LEAST 2 hours (many people decide to let them soak overnight). This helps to wake the rose up from its dormant state. 

You want to dig a hole at least 18" x 18" x 18" to accommodate the roots. I measure out and cut an 18" x 18" square in the weed barrier I place down. This helps me make sure I dig a big enough hole, but it also helps the rose to "breathe."

After you've dug the hole, make sure to loosen up the soil at the bottom of the hole as well. Place the rose so the bud union (where the rose is grafted onto the roots - a roundish knobby section) just below ground level. It's a good idea to have a stick or rod of some sort handy to place flat across the hole rather than "eyeballing" it.

Gently fill the hole with a good gardening soil (I really like Master Nursery "Bumper Crop.") You want to mound it up just slightly around the rose so water runs away from it rather than toward it. Then you want to water the rose thoroughly (I like to add fish fertilizer the first time, and then about once a week throughout the spring and summer). Make sure to water the rose every day until well-established.

Note on Climbing Roses/Ramblers:

When you're dealing with climbers or ramblers, it's good to plant the roses at a 45-degree angle with the canes pointed toward what you would like to train it up and the roots pointed away. 

Rose Markers:

I said I would get to it soon! Before we moved to Bethlehem, I had several David Austin roses of different varieties. I drew up a blueprint of my garden beds and labeled the placement of each rose on it. It was a lot of work and it really only benefitted me, not the casual passersby who were curious what varieties of roses where there. So for this garden, I decided I would create rose markers - easier and everyone benefits from them. In my searching, I found "Orion Garden Marker," a small business based in Arizona that engraves garden markers of various sizes and out of various materials. I picked their engraved zinc markers and designed a template using the common name, patented name/release year, and breeder for each of my roses. Dale at Orion Garden Marker was absolutely fantastic to work with, and I've placed (I believe) 4 separate orders with him now. They are reasonably priced and have a very quick turnaround time. 

(I think they've turned out great!)

Planting these two "The Generous Gardener" roses and mulching these beds were the end of my ORIGINAL plans for this year. I originally figured my other garden projects would happen in later seasons as I had time to get to them.

(One of "The Generous Gardener" in place. This is what they look like when shipped bare root, but quickly "leaf out.")

Stay tuned for part 3 - these are taking a lot longer to write than I initially anticipated! 😅

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