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Ugly and Barren need ideas!

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2005
by Celena0056 on August 16, 2005 11:40 PM
I live in Idaho Falls, where the soli is fertile but like clay and has many rocks in it. We recently moved into a nre house and our backyard has 3 quaking aspens and an evergreen. They are happy and doing well but the backyard is half an acre. I need some ideas for groundcover and hardy plants that can stand a little bit of chilliness and wind. We have no landscaping whatsoever and I can't stand it anymore. We already remodeled the house so it's high time we at least have a plan for next year. Do any of you guys know anything that I could do to correct this major problem?
by Longy on August 17, 2005 12:08 AM
Hi Celena, here's a post put up a few months ago for building a garden on crap ground. Take from it what you will, it doesn't exactly answer your queries re what you can grow but i think it may help. After this you'll be able to grow anything you want:-)

First, plan the shape of the garden. I'd suggest you use curves rather than square shapes if you're gonna mow around the beds. A garden hose is a great way to plan bed shapes. Use your lawn mower to go around the bed and make sure you can easily maintain around it. No need to have it running, just push it round and ensure the shape is mower friendly. OK. Happy with the shape?

Second: Now mow the grass where the garden is to be. Short. Real short! Like down to the soil if you don't mind using your mower that low. Leave it exposed to the sun thru the heat of the day.

Three: If your soil is naturally sour, ie a Ph of less than say 6 1/2, a handful to the square yard of dolomite now will help. If your soil is heavy clay the same amount of gypsum per square yard will also help. (You can buy a Ph test kit for about $10 and they're excellent and will last for many years. Very simple and safe to use).
Then, cover the area with pelletised chook poo. About a handful to the square yard and water it well.

Four: Cover the area in a layer of newspaper at least 10-15 sheets thick. You can use cardboard for this too but the point is don't leave any gaps. Not even the slightest. If you think there's a bit of a gap or a hole in a cardboard box cover it with more paper. The grass WILL come thru otherwise. Refrigerator boxes etc are great for big areas. Have a hose handy to wet the paper or you can bet a breeze will pick up halfway thru this step. Wet the paper at the end of this anyway. Maybe a few stones or half bricks handy just in case.

If the soil is good and you don't need to improve it much go to the last step .
(Obviously this next step is important for you Celina)
Five : To improve the soil, and i recommend this step even if you have reasonable soil, cover the paper/cardboard with compost, organic soil, pulverised cow/sheep poo, blood and bone, lucerne bales,in fact any organic matter you can get your hands on. More is definitely better. Up to 12" thick is good. 6" will do. If you buy soil, ask what the Ph is and check that it has organic matter incoorporated. Manures and compost are definitely the best though.

Finally, bury the lot under a few bales of spoiled, seed free straw or meadow hay. This should also be a minimum of 6-8" thick. Then water the bed very well.

You can build surrounds for the bed to tidy it up but if you just go around it with a sharp square spade and cut a "V" trench about 4" deep around it, you'll stop the grass growing into the garden. Put the soil/grass from this into the compost bin. This trench is easily maintained and aids drainage too. It'll have bits of cardboard or paper hanging out the edges but after about a week you'll be able to go around and just tear them off where they're rotting.
What will happen is the grass and weeds underneath will be well fed and warm as toast. It'll want to grow like blazes. But it can't cause it's got no light. So it'll get all soft and just rot and break down. This will cause a nitrogen drop, but the chook poo will supply extra nitrogen and help the process. Also, a squillion critters that you never knew existed will move in and convert the grass and everything else into a rich organic layer of humus. They will carry this into the original soil and do the digging for you. You can use the bed after a few weeks and you'll have a fantastic rich soil with not a chemical added. Do i sound excited by this? It's cause i am. It's unreal:)

As an aside, if it's the right time of the year for planting potatoes, you can put a seed potato every square foot of garden area on top of the layer of cardboard paper and you'll get the best crop of spuds you ever saw. That's a gaurantee. Potatoes are also great for breaking up new soil too so they'll help the digging process [thumb]

BTW a chook is a chicken.

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The secret is the soil.
by tkhooper on August 17, 2005 01:23 AM and are my two favorite nurseries for looking at plants for specific purposes.

And amending clay type soil can be done by adding sand if you have access to some or gypsum which will soften it up so that you can add compost. I think with the water situation I've had this year that if I were in my own house and just starting on the garden my first thought would be a sprinkler system lol. But I have no idea what idaho is like.

After I had the water and soil squared away I'd probably start thinking about the kind of garden I wanted. Which is probably backwards lol. Especially if I wanted a water feature or zen garden since I would have amended and sprinkler'ed alot of land that wouldn't need it lol.

Next I would probably be doing what I have been doing off and on all summer. And that's trying to choose different plants so something will be providing color and garden interest all year long. That is taking some work but I've found those two websites mentioned earlier have helped me quite a bit.
by rue anemone on August 18, 2005 10:47 PM
Hi Celena0056!

You might check out this site too:

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by weezie13 on August 19, 2005 09:34 AM
Here's a page or two Bill's done at his place..
Building a birdbath
Choosing the appropriate plants to suit your gardening needs

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Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

by slredmond on October 21, 2005 02:37 AM
Wow - these are all fabulous ideas. Even though I'm in MI instead of Idaho, we also have a big, barren lawn of clay with nada but grass that we'll convert into flower beds. We've chosen our shapes, have been saving the newspapers, and have enough aged horse poo to fertilize 10 acres! I can hardly wait to get these compost piles going to be ready for next year's planting.

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Sandy R.

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