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Poor soil

(34 Posts)
Greyduster Fri 22-Feb-19 18:01:51

We have just ripped out a very old and very overgrown conifer garden on the corner of our front lawn. It had become a toilet for cats and any passing dog and could not be properly pruned so that it looked tidy. Added to this, it blocked out view of the coming traffic when we backed out of our drive. The problem is that now we have got all the roots out and re-sited all the stones, the soil we are left with is very dry, very poor and full of pine needles. Any way to condition the soil so that it will grow plants again? I want to put in heathers, some low growing shrubs, perennial geraniums, maybe heucheras. Is it a lost cause?

janeainsworth Fri 22-Feb-19 18:14:27

I don’t think heathers need particularly rich soil, gd. They like acid soil though so
a dose of miracid would help.
But if you want to improve your soul, compost is the way to go. If you don’t make your own, it might be worth asking your council if they supply it. Ours composts garden waste from the green bins and sells it back to us.

janeainsworth Fri 22-Feb-19 18:14:46

Improve your soil!!

J52 Fri 22-Feb-19 18:15:01

I created a new flower bed in similar conditions. Over the winter I dug in soil improver, manure and general compost, all bought at the local garden centre. Everything I planted grew and did well.
If your growing heathers they prefer ericaceous soil so I’d use ericaceous compost.

Jalima1108 Fri 22-Feb-19 18:40:19

Heathers like ericaceous soil so perhaps need to be in a corner away from the other plants, unless your other planting also likes acid soil.

My heucheras got vine weevil, sadly, but check exactly what type of soil they like before you invest in them.

as everyone else says, compost and any type of soil improver and check to see if your would-be plants like rich soil, if so then add manure, which you can buy in bags.

I bought compost which was suitable for shrubs to top-dress roses, clematis etc and it is supposed to enrich the soil for five+ months.

Try to remove all the pine needles.

Have you checked the pH of your soil?

EllanVannin Fri 22-Feb-19 18:43:18

Local farm manure dug into the soil.

Greyduster Fri 22-Feb-19 19:30:51

Scant chance of removing the pine needles, jalima I’m afraid. We will just have to work with them☹️.

Jalima1108 Fri 22-Feb-19 20:37:33

Perhaps try to rake or sift out as many as you can.

I am just waiting for the neighbours to cut down their Leylandii - I'll even help pay!!

ps - a neighbouring cat seemed to think that my heathers made a good lavatory, whether it was just a favourite spot or whether heather attract cats I do not know.

Davidhs Fri 22-Feb-19 21:04:01

Acid loving plants would thrive well, Rhododendron, Camelia, Azalea, Hydrangea to name but a few, all love fertility so add manure or fertilizer. If you want a vegetable crop potatoes tolerate acid well, all the above need water they don’t like dry conditions

Grammaretto Fri 22-Feb-19 22:55:27

All the above!. Just to reassure you. We had a small forest of Christmas trees felled to create a community garden. The stumps were tugged out and everyone despaired as it looked quite barren However, we raked and dug and then planted potatoes. We got a fine crop.
The next year we dug in compost and grew plenty more veg.
Good luck with your garden. I'm sure it will be lovely.

MissAdventure Fri 22-Feb-19 23:12:03

Pine needles will compost if you just leave them where they are.
They add air to the soil, so although they take a long time to break down, they're quite good composting material.

Hilltopgran Sat 23-Feb-19 01:30:14

We visited a garden last year where they had covered the soil under Blueberry bushes with pine needles because they help make the soil acid which is what Blueberries like. So Heathers and dwarf Rhodendron should do well in the situation you describe.

Our soil is poor acid sand, we live next to a heather moor so I planted a variety of Heathers, Azaleas and Rhodendron and Camelias which all do well.

Gettingitrightoneday Sat 23-Feb-19 08:00:40

I was using a bradall to spear and remove the B** vine weevils from the base of my heucheras.

I am now awaiting for my vine weevil nematodes to arrive.
I am a gentle soul really .

Greyduster Sat 23-Feb-19 08:07:29

All off the above is very reassuring and taken on board, with thanks (even Janea’s suggestion for improving my soul 😁 - could do with a little of that!!). I looked out at it this morning and it looks a bit like a large shallow grave with rocks! I had blueberries (or at least, the blackbirds had blueberries - I had few!) in the back garden, but I want a bit more impact (but subtle!) in the front. I am not losing sight of the fact that we are still in winter and it’s too early to look for plants, but at least I have something to think about.

janeainsworth Sat 23-Feb-19 10:02:27

I don’t think it’s too early to look for plants gd. And if you get them in fairly soon, they’ll have chance to get a bit established before any dry spells in summer might make daily watering a necessary chore.
<checks for typos>grin

shysal Sat 23-Feb-19 10:09:34

I would just buy some bags of soil improver. I like your choice of plants. The Heuchera and Geranium (my favourite is Rozanne) grow all around my garden and the soil is rubbish!

J52 Sat 23-Feb-19 10:16:27

It’s ok to plant hardy plants now, or once you’ve improved your soil, but beware of that years ‘beast from the East’.
I’d keep an ey on the weather forecast and have some fleece or cloches made from plastic bottles to put over anything tender.
Have you drawn a planting plan, so that the plants at the rear get planted first, it’s easy to over plant a new bed. I’m speaking from experience 🤣.

J52 Sat 23-Feb-19 10:16:49

Last* not that!

Foxyloxy Sat 23-Feb-19 10:24:59

I wonder if the ‘no dig’ method might help. I watched something on TV, where they laid cardboard over an area, covered it with a good layer of manure and then a good layer of compost, and planted straight through. Apparently, the cardboard then disintegrated and worked into the ‘poor’ soil aerating it. This also helped with being able to weed easily. The site is really good, for help and advice.

J52 Sat 23-Feb-19 10:49:22

Yes Foxy, that’s wat I did on my reclaimed part of the garden. It was sloping so I built a barrier where the join with the lawn was. Then I laid cardboard and back filled with a large amount of anything going cheap at the garden centres. I ended up with about 30 cms/ 12 inches of good soil.
After 2 years all the plant, large and small are thriving.
DH used the same method on the new raised beds in another part of the garden. All good.

Fennel Sat 23-Feb-19 20:52:35

Another idea would be to look out for some building works in your area where they're digging down into the soil. They might have some to spare, useful topsoil.
We got some that way once.

Anja Sat 23-Feb-19 21:16:36

Yes, a big bag of ericaceous compost dug into the existing pine needly soil should support heathers.

Gonegirl Sat 23-Feb-19 22:40:28

You can get a peat free ericaceous compost now. Thereby helping to save the peat bogs.

Gonegirl Sat 23-Feb-19 22:41:52

It's expensive but you would only need to put a little in each hole with a bit round the edge to encourage the heather to spread. The ground sounds quite acid anyway.

Jalima1108 Sat 23-Feb-19 23:22:16

my favourite is Rozanne
I bought one last year, I think it was you who recommended it shysal and it was lovely.
It has disappeared but I'm hoping it will grow back again this year - or have I lost it?