Hey there guys,
I am hoping someone can give me a bit of advice on very dry soil. We
have just moved into a rented accomodation with a garden, which I've
When we moved in, it was overgrown with shrubs and weeds and have taken
most of them out now leaving just a few tall shrubs and trailing roses.
Now, the problem is, before I plant any new shrubs and border plants, I
want to make sure the soil is okay to plant in. As it was so
neglected, there are many hard roots left in the soil from, what I call
'cauliflour shrubs' - the leaves looked like cauliflour leaves, it also
has glass and stones in it like all other neglected gardens.
The soil is very dry and clumpy and I'm unsure how to rectify it.
I was thinking about just throwing compost on top of it and throwing in
the plant food pellets, but I wanted most of the stones/glass out before
I did that, or would it just be easier to take off the top layer (with
all the rubbish on it) THEN put compost down... any cheap fixes out
there? As the title says, I'm new to gardening but really want the
beds to be the best they can before I spend loads of money on plants.
Any advice would be absolutely wonderful :)
Thanks in advance,
Hi Sheralynne, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but no, there are no
quick fixes, gardening, like most things worth doing, gives back in
direct proportion to the effort put in. No effort = poor results ?
Obviously as its a rented property you wont want to be spending a
fortune but heres your biggest problem ! As its been neglected and
overgrown, the soil will be very dirty (full of weed seeds) and as soon
as you get a shower of rain, up they will come in thier thousands ? so
heres what to do, try where possible to dig over as much of the ground
as possible, this will bury most of this 'dirty soil', most weed seeds
germinate only in the very top layer of soil ! While digging, take out
any roots you see and any perennial weeds. Now you can plant, using
compost around each plant and if you really want to do a first class
job, when planted, mulch with any organic matter, this will do two
things, firstly, conserve moisture in your stony soil but equally as
important, it will prevent alot of these weeds germinating. It also in
my opinion, makes the plants look nicer !
Im not sure what your thinking of planting but try to think in
groups, using shrubs with evergreen different coloured foliage (which
you will have year round) and treat flowers as a bonus. Add small groups
of perennials like Heuchera, Salvia, Argyranthemum etc to give a blast
of summer colour. Personally I like to use 3/4 of the area in shrubs and
only 1/4 perennials, that way you get maximum effect for minimum
Best of luck, Lannerman
How's your supply of elbow grease?
Seriously, how much physical labor are you willing to put in? How
large is the garden area? If it's big the best advice is to start with
a small patch. Lots of people want a garden and they want it the way
gardens look on tv or in the local Botanical Garden. Myself included!
We just don't realize that the people at the local BG- I won't say
they have no life, it's just that their life IS the garden.
Really, you want to start small. Pick the best patch of soil you have
and condition it. Now, you left out some essential information- where
are you? That's going to determine what you can grow and when you
should plant it. AND what kind of soil those plants like- basic or
acid or neutral?
Also, if you're like most of people posting on the group, you have had
a ton of rain recently. NEVER work wet soil. Soil has structure, and
you will turn it into cement if you try anything when it is wet.
(Maybe you know this, but you also didn't tell us your level of
expertise.) If the soil is dry, you could rent a roto-tiller to break
up those clumps. As far as the glass shards and rocks- well, that's
back-breaking work. I use a sifter myself- it's a 5 foot by 2 foot
frame made of 2x4 lumber, and I nailed half-inch chicken wire to the
bottom. When I dig out a patch of soil I throw it into the frame and I
draft my daughter into holding one end. We shake it around until the
soil is all out, and discard the chunks. Anything less than a half-
inch will probably not be a problem.
Like I said, starting a garden is a killer. It's a LOT more work than
most people realize. It's also one of the most rewarding things you
can do with a piece of land. And the best part is, you really only
have to break your back once, at the very beginning. Sure, it's going
to take some work afterward, but nothing like the initial investment.
And if you try to do the whole thing at once- unless you have a pile
of money to pay people to do it for you- it's going to break your back
and break your heart and you will hate gardening for the rest of your
life. So start small and smart. Plan your garden before you start.
What plants do you want? Do they need full sun or can they do well in
partial shade? Or even full shade?
And start a compost pile. Any veggie scraps from the kitchen will do.
Pick a shady spot in the yard and toss the scraps there. Just cut off
the top of a gallon milk container, keep it by the sink,and keep
tossing in those carrot and potato peels. When it's full (or if you
get fruit flies) just empty it on the chosen spot. In a few weeks (it
it's warm) you will have the best fertilizer in the world.
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