DUST THOU ART by Ted Mills

I first read this article by Ted Mills (Aka RoseDoc) in the beautiful and very informative American Rose Society magazine,  American Rose.

Dust Thou Art…

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)

This scripture mandates the importance of soil. Biblical reference further emphasizes its value by stating that mankind will return to dust.

As RoseDoc pondered this biblical truth, it convinced him of the importance of soil. It behooves the rosarian who wants to raise award-winning roses to establish a planting site.It should provide the nutrients necessary for good growth. There was a time when Garden-of-Eden-type soil was in abundance. It was the perfect soil. Today, the earth has numerous varieties of soil. Some is sandy, while other sites have extensive amounts of clay. Some have good drainage, while other gardens have surplus moisture that stands indefinitely. Some is pure chert with severe nutrient depletion. Rosarians need to know the makeup of their rosebed soil. Only a soil test will reveal the status of soil quality.

Why is RoseDoc so interested in soil? He considers it the essence of life, since all creatures started in a form of soil. It is our Creator’s word listed above that validates this statement. Birds in the air, worms in the soil, beetles in the grass and all animals owe their being to soil. Even humans experience that same beginning.

In rose growing there is a definite need to pay attention to the soil quality. No longer do we have an abundance of fertility. This is especially true in urban areas where commercial growth has taken its toll. Soil amending is essential. The rosarian must know what is best to provide its improvement. Soil analysis is the first step. Agricultural agents and some garden centers provide this service. Once you acquire this information, it is time to put action into the project.

There was a time when ARS did not highlight the inclusion of organics in feeding roses. In fact, it was over 100 years of existence that the first organic product was endorsed.  Chemical fertilizers alone enjoyed top billing in the feeding program. Not so today.  Rosarians began to realize the importance of organic feeding for their roses. The value of adding humus to rosebeds was advanced. It was a common occurrence for compost-minded exhibitors to place winning entries on the head tables.  Organics gave the blooms added luster that enhanced their chances of winning. RoseDoc’s hero, Dean Reynolds Hole, the famed English patriarch of roses, strongly supported the use of organics. His philosophy spoke of providing ample “dunging” to rosebeds. It was he who kept rose growing on the “front burner” of hobbies in England. To him, the practice of exhibiting in rose shows commanded top interest.

RoseDoc well remembers his initial struggle with soil improvement. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, it behooved rural farmers to accelerate their production of vegetables. RoseDoc faced growing them in coal-dust-infused soil.  Living near a coal tipple is not the best location, since an abundance of sulfur proved harmful. However, with extra effort he was mildly successful. It proved to be a “baptism” in soil amending in difficult conditions. However, since that time, revitalizing soil is easier since nutritious components are readily available for use.

Once the rosarian decides to adopt rose growing as a hobby, it is time to put action into his decision. Remember that the home of the rose regulates its quality. Does the soil have the proper pH? Is there an abundance of organic material in the bed? Is drainage a problem? Is sufficient sunlight available? Is it planted near invading tree roots? These are but a few questions to be answered. Once these are satisfied, the rosarian is well on the way to produce good roses.

To ensure the continuance of the hobby it is well to join a local rose society. There you can find the most helpful information. Association with skilled rosarians can reap
many benefits. One virtue of rosarians is the fact they unselfishly share rose culture with
fellow members. That, in itself, is a big plus that is not always provided by other hobby groups. Even in rose shows, participating rosarians share helpful knowledge to their
competing exhibitors.

Understanding the importance of soil is the proper route to growing award-winning roses.

It is the initial step to being successful in the hobby. Don’t skimp in applying amendments to rosebeds. Garden centers have the necessary products to ensure successful growing. Visit them regularly and view the many products now available. Couple these visits with a good composting operation at home.

RoseDoc is so cognizant of soil’s worth that he considers it borders sacrilege to call it “dirt.” Leave that terminology to unkind gossip.

“Dust you are and to dust you will return.” That is a sobering truth. It certainly lets every person know the importance of soil, especially rosarians.

Reprinted by permission of the author Ted Mills (Master Rosarian and Judge) and The American Rose Society.

6 thoughts on “DUST THOU ART by Ted Mills

  1. Fabulous article by Ted Mills thanks for sharing it with us. Rosarians and average gardeners alike do well to pause and consider the precious soil we all share so intimately, and it’s also why I am such a believer in every home having a good compost system. Happy Gardening!

Leave a Reply