Can You Dig It?


Here at Witherspoon Rose Culture, we dig beds in an interesting way that is rarely replicated by others, public or private.  This unique form of preparing rose beds is almost extinct.  It's called...digging by hand!  All that's needed is a drain spade, a tiller and the willpower to transform hard-packed North Carolina red clay, or your native soil media, into a well-drained, raised rose bed that will last for eight to ten years.

Roses love well-drained soil, full of nutrients and not so fluffy that it can't hold some water.  It is very important to use and incorporate your native soil into the bed.  Here in NC, our native clay has many great properties.  It holds water, contains lots of great nutrients and has many living organisms that roses love!  The most difficult part of digging your new garden is breaking into the clay.  We've figured out a way to make it easier!  Imagine your bed is a rectangle.  Start at one end and dig a trench along the short end of the rectangle, placing the soil in a wheelbarrow.  This allows you to break away, or chip off, the clay and move back as you continue to dig the rest of the bed.  We highly recommend this systematic method of digging for all soil types.

After the clay has been flipped to a depth of 16-18 inches, start throwing in your amendments.  This is a very important step that you don't want to skimp on.  Remember, you are creating a bed that will last for 8-10 years, if done properly, so use only high quality amendments and think long term.  Witherspoon Rose Culture has put together an amendment blend that is superior to any other bagged blend available on the market.

Witherspoon's Premium Planting Mix is comprised of three ingredients:  

  • Organic and local composted cow manure - adds crucial organic matter to the soil and stimulates microbial activity while helping to balance the pH
  • High quality aged soil conditioner - adds more organic matter and aids in drainage
  • PermaTill® - a very porous, rock-like product that maintains aeration and drainage


**If you don't have access to WRC Premium Planting Mix, try to create your own by using the ratio of 1/3 composted cow manure or equivalent organic product, 1/3 aged soil conditioner, and 1/3 Perma-Til.  For most soil types, this mix is great, but in very sandy, extremely well drained soils, it is necessary to incorporate more organic matter to help hold water and even a synthetic moisture control product like "Soil Moist."**

Use two bags per bush of our Premium Planting Mix, till and mix the bed very well.  Once this is done, it's time to add another extremely important ingredient, Witherspoon's Premium Planting Essentials.  For all soil types, use three cups per bush, or one cup of each individual ingredient per bush and till these into the top six inches of the soil.

Witherspoon's Premium Planting Essentials is comprised of three ingredients:  

  • Bone Meal -  helps to stimulate root growth and adds phosphorous to your bed
  • Lime -  adds micronutrients to the soil, balances pH, and increases the plant's ability to absorb nutrients into the roots
  • Gypsum - adds micronutrients to the soil and stimulates microbial activity


Finally, rake the bed level with the grade of the area so that water doesn't sit or run off in spots.  You are now ready to plant your premium bareroot or potted roses.

Remember, if you don't want the backache, and you are near our service area, let us absorb the ache for you!  Witherspoon has extremely competitive rates on installation of high quality rose beds.  We will customize it to your landscape and even design it for you, from color groupings to height arrangements and we will even suggest companion plants.  Let one of our professionals come look at your landscape. We'll give you suggestions and a FREE estimate for a new rose bed or extension to an current rose bed, or revitalizing your existing bed.  Call 1-800-643-0315!!

You can reach Dylan McKnight at for answers to your questions or requests for more information regarding this article.