The first question most people ask when they hear the term "Earth-Kind Rose" is, "What does that mean?" Earth-Kind is a special designation given to specific roses by Texas Agri-Life Extension Service. The roses that receive this special designation have been through years of extensive field trials and testing. The trials determine which roses are the most disease, insect, heat and drought tolerant for an area. An "earth kind" designation suggests that these roses provide superior landscape performance and do not need to be sprayed with chemicals, fertilized, pruned or deadheaded (which means simply to remove spent blooms) They only need supplemental watering during the first year of growth (as does any new plant), or in years of drought as is the case now. A few guidelines for giving new Earth-Kind roses a great start include choosing a proper planting site, preparing the soil and maintaining the planting bed. A proper planting site is one that receives at least six to eight hours of full sun per day, has good air-flow all around the plant and will allow for at least 1 foot of open space around the plant after it has reached its mature size. Not considering how large a plant will be when it reaches its full size is one of the top mistakes gardeners make. Bed preparation is key for new rose or flower beds. The Earth-Kind recommendations for proper bed preparation include adding 3 to 6 inches of fully decomposed, organic compost into the existing soil. This adds beneficial nutrients for plants. If it is clay soil, it is also recommended to add 3 inches of expanded shale. Expanded shale may look like gravel, but it is actually shale that has been heated until it expands. This expansion leaves tiny holes in the surface of the shale which holds moisture and air that is released into the soil as needed. The final step and finishing touch in bed preparation is to add a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch. Hardwood mulch is considered the best for this application because it breaks down slowly, releasing essential nutrients into the soil. Maintenance is easy. Simply maintain the 3- to 4-inch layer of hardwood mulch year round. This means that, as the mulch breaks down, add more to keep a constant level. The mulch adds nutrients that plants need, helps maintain soil moisture and helps regulate soil temperatures. Mulch protects plant roots from excessive heat in the summer as well as freezing temperatures in the winter. Water as needed when the soil in the plants' root zone is dry to a depth of 1 inch below the top of the soil level. Roses do not appreciate being watered by sprinklers. The best way to water is by hand at the soil line or by installing drip irrigation. One nice deep watering is better than more frequent shallow watering. Remember it is just as easy to kill a plant by over-watering as it is by under-watering. Currently, there are 21 varieties of Earth-Kind Roses available, many at local nurseries or on-line at accredited Texas nurseries. Belinda's Dream is this writer's favorite because of its very large, full, fragrant and plentiful pink blooms. For more information, go to www.aggiehorticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind, or call the Texas Agri-Life Extension Service at 940-659-1228.