One thing I love about our new house is that we have 2 acres of blank canvas. Although the house isn’t new construction plunked down in the middle of an old corn field, my husband’s grandfather, in his later years, went through a “Mow it down” phase. So the peonies that use to line the entire length of the driveway are long gone and so is the asparagus patch, leaving vast expanses of easily mowed lawn. In fact my expanse of lawn rolls right into the neighbors, with only the occasional lawn mowing to mark the property line.
While the lack of fence or other markers make our yard look like it’s much bigger than it is, our dogs, chickens and the neighbor girl, on her quad, tend not to see where one lawn starts and the other stops.
We knew we wanted a fence of some sort, even before we started the move last summer, but getting moved took most of our time and energy last year. Heck, we’re still unpacking. Though not jumping on fence construction gave us plenty of time to think about where it should go, how it should look and all the other nuances of the project.
We considered more chain link, like we have around the other half of the property line, various bushes, trees, split rail, and just about every style fence you could think of before we settled on Robin Hood Musk roses.
They might take a few years to reach their full glory, but they’ll be better looking than chain link, less maintenance than wood, cheaper than vinyl, and I won’t need to trim them like I would with a hedge. Plus 300′ of thorns should keep dogs and chickens from wiggling through.
The first thing I had to do was figure out how many roses we would need to create a thick hedge along the property line. Since I didn’t have a handy dandy Measuring wheel and I couldn’t find our 50′ tape measure (remember that move I was telling you about?), I turned to technology.
I won’t go into details of how I got a rough estimate using the GIMP and Google maps, since it’s a bit technical for a gardening topic. But if you’d like to see a tute on the process, please leave a comment and I’ll write it up. Otherwise I’ll assume you’re not interested.
Suffice it to say, that the area I wanted as roses was the north (top) and East (right) borders of the red box shown in the photo. By measuring the border in pixels (px) and counting PX between the marks on the scale provided I came up with approximately 300 lineal feet of fence/hedge if I start at the NW corner of our lot, and make a jog to the garage. (The numbers in the image are for the whole lot, not just the shaded section – I’m recycling images)
According to the nursery, I needed roses every 2 feet to form a hedge or 150 roses. For this project, that came out to $525 or about one-third the cost of the supplies I’d need to cover the same distance with chain link.
I placed my order on May 9 and 3 big boxes showed up a week later.
With bare root plants, time is of the essence. You don’t really know how long they’ve been out of the ground and what the conditions were like in shipping. If you want to ensure their survival, it’s important to get them in the ground as soon after arrival as possible.
If your permanent location won’t be ready for a while, you should heel them in. A fancy term for a temporary planting.
The first thing you need to to with any bare root plant is get them out of their package and soak them for several hours, in water, before you plant them. Even though the plants were packaged in plastic to keep them from drying out completely, they still dried out. Trust me, they are thirsty and if they are well hydrated before they go into the ground, they stand a much better chance of thriving after planting.
I could only get the first 50 roses into water because I was running short on water-tight containers.
Since I was going to plant all the roses within a short amount of time I cheated a little bit by not unpacking all the plants. Instead, I assumed they were packed well enough to go further across the country and that they’d be alright if I left the remaining boxes in the shade while I got the others in the ground.
Once I started planting though, as I emptied a bucket, I would unpack a group of roses and start their soak. Though if I were to do this again, I would probably order 50 roses at a time, about a week apart. More on this later.
Our town’s code book states that although a fence can be placed directly on the property line, plantings need to be 4 feet from the line. Which in our case works out just fine since the roses should get to be between 4-6 feet tall and wide leaving them just shy of the true property line by the time they mature.
Since there’s no way I could eyeball a perfectly straight line 4 feet off the property line for nearly 250 feet, I turned to a trusty Mason Line. Though any string will do, I purchased a high contrast color so that I could see it easily against the lawn.
Using a tape measure, the line and a couple of sturdy sticks to act as stakes… I measured 4′ from the surveyor’s mark on the NW corner of the yard, and placed my stick. Then I tied my line to my stick. While trailing the line behind me, I walked to the other end of the property to measure 4 feet from that property marker and placed the other stake/stick.
However, before I tied off the string, I lifted it out of the grass and pulled on it a little bit to be sure it wouldn’t sag, be blown around by the wind or otherwise be dragged off by a wondering dog.
Depending on how long your string is, you might find it has a lot of stretch in it before the slack is taken up. So make sure whatever string and stakes you’re using can handle being tugged on.
When I was sure my line was straight and would remain straight, I tied it off.
Next we measured along the string, every 2 feet to mark where we would dig our holes for the roses. We used leftover spray paint to mark our spots. While it’s probably not the most environmentally friendly way to do it, it was on hand and was a way to use up the paint which was already a potential environmental pollutant.
With all the spots down, we rewound the line to get it out of the way while we worked.
Indecently, the process was exactly the same for the 90 degree turn we made from the property line to the garage. We just didn’t have to worry about a perfect off-set, since that was already set so we eyeballed the placement of the string on both ends. In our case the location was based on where we’ll put a vehicle gate later on. After all, it would be a real bummer not to have access to the back yard if we ever need to get a truck back there.
We bent the rules a little bit. Normally you would want a hole wide, and deep enough to spread the roots out so they aren’t crowded. With 150 roses to get into the ground and my husband volunteering to dig, any reasonable hole was just fine with me.
Except for a few places near the trees where there were roots in the way, every hole was the same. My husband simply drove the shovel in the ground 4 times, as far as it would go, to create a ring around the white dots and pried out a big plug of dirt and sod, leaving it at the side of the hole. Poor guy even broke 2 shovels while helping me.
Since the roots were going in all directions I had to work them into the hole along with the dirt and sod left behind. Now I didn’t really want the sod growing back as a weedy mess around my beautiful new roses, but without it, I wouldn’t have enough dirt to back fill the hole.
To get around this problem, I put the sod in first, before the rose and soil. In some cases I had to tear the sod into smaller pieces and work it in between the roots in sort of a cone to drape the roots over the top to get everything to fit back inside. I didn’t fret if I couldn’t get it all back in the hole and composted the rest. I just needed it as fill and a small depression isn’t a bad thing, especially when watering, I just didn’t want a row of craters.
The grass will die deep in the hole providing green manure for the rose to feed on as it gets established.
To get the soil in around the roots I crumbled about half of the dirt back in the hole and sprayed it with water from the hose to settle it around the roots. Only spraying until the water was at the same depth as the soil in the hole. I was also careful not to blast the roots too hard. I need them in good shape to help the plants get established.
After that step I put in about 2 tablespoons of Azomite, the rest of the soil, and watered again. While not a traditional NPK fertilizer, Azomite has many trace minerals that will help the rose grow strong. The best way is to think of it like giving your plants a vitamin pill. I used Granular Azomite because the wind is always blowing at my house and I could see a plume of dust fertilizing the whole town if I went with the powered form.
In all, I spent nearly 2 and a half days crawling along the property line to plant the roses. Which is why, if I do anything this grand again, I’ll break the shipments up and do no more than 50 at a time.
Day 1, Thursday – Layout and 50 roses planted. Wrists, knees, and legs all ached at the end of the day.
Day 2, Friday – 80 roses planted and some darn good advice from my husband to stop for dinner and start again in the morning. Although I was really close to being done, my body was screaming at me. I started planting a little after 9am and although I was moving along faster than I had the day before, I was getting slower and slower as the day went on.
Day 3, Saturday – I was excited to be finishing, but at the same time, my body was not happy with me being back on my hands and knees. I managed to finish up fairly quickly and gather the left over bits of sod to compost. In fact, while I was gathering the sod, husband dearest was making me lunch and while I ate, he finished picking up the rest. Then I spent the rest of the day in bed watching Netflix and knitting.
On Sunday, I had to get back to mom duty and all the other things I neglected while working in the yard. My kitchen – oh the dishes and mess in there, but now that my body is getting over the effects of crawling around the yard, I’m making a dent on the dishes.
All I know is that this rose hedge should look amazing in just a few years and then, like the pain of child birth, it will all be worth it. In fact, the roses planted on the first day were already showing signs of bud growth when I checked on them before getting started Friday morning.
I’m also looking farther into the future when I’m too old to get excited about lawn hacking or even lawn care. With luck, once these roses establish themselves, I won’t have to do much except admire them.
I’ll keep you updated though and report back on how they’re progressing.