Watering has always been too much a responsibility for me, so they were put on an automatic drip system. However the problem is that the mix would get wet right underneath the drip emitters, 5 of them per pot, but just an inch away from the emitter the mix would be dry. And since it was a peat based mix (50% peat, 50% lava rocks or turface), most of the mix would become hydrophobic and stay that way all summer.
The roses would do ok, but clearly stressed.
This year I decided to make them into hugel pots after seeing how well my eggplants did in a stump pot (see post: http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/09/eggplant-stump-branch-pot-comparison.html).
Here are the 3 dormant roses to be repotted.
After taking the roses out and throwing away all the peat based mix, I drilled many small holes in each pot bottom. This isn't for better drainage, it is for better bottom root aeration. This is a critical aspect for a hugel pot.
Next I put in about 3-4" of compost in the bottom of the pots. You want the roots to mat up right at the bottom of the pot over the aeration holes. Here the roots will be kept wet and well-ventilated.
Then I put in wood from a split stump. Must be vertical to be effective. Water will be absorbed into the top of the wood and then slowly released out the bottom. So roots that form at the bottom of the pot will receive a slow water drip that should also have nutrients in it from the wood and any fertilizer you add.
Compost is from a playground wood chips that has decayed over 10 years. No peat to avoid hydrophobic issues. Root-pruned rose goes on top.
Pots are placed in bricks, so air can flow underneath
The yellow clump is a corn meal-based kitty litter urine clump. I'm going to use these as the only fertilizer for a couple of the roses to see how it does. They will be watered in (broken up) after being added. This should deter rabbits also.
Looking forward to seeing how this does.
Hopefully it will cut down on the frequency watering is needed and when I do forget to water and it dries out, it will be easy to water it again without hydrophobic issues.
Late June I'll post an update and at the end of the season I'll take the rose out of the pot for pictures on how the roots are doing.