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found an old garden site, need some input

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

When we first moved into the house here, the east end was covered by two huge evergreens and there were foxgloves and goldenrod growing under them. Well, we decided to put in a rock wall and build a shade garden under the trees. This was in late fall, so the project was put off until the next year. In Feb. one tree blew down and damaged the roots of the other so badly that it had to be taken down. the shade garden became a sun with afternoon shade garden in two parts: NE and SE. I have pretty much gotten those two sites where I want them - built them up with barn yard dirt, natural compost from the woods and sand to thin out the heaviness. This year, I've been working up next to the house and the soil there is obviously old garden. It almost defines friable in spots, but because of the rain shadow of the house, it tends to be way too dry. I have a bag of peat moss and I'm wondering if mixing about 2 inches overall will help with this problem. I've been mulching the plants that I know need moist soil with bark mulch, but the NE end is almost desert like and I'd like to try to confine the foxglove and feverfew to that end. Any suggestions would be appreciated - the easier the better - I'm not getting any younger!!

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Kathleen - you know I'm not the one to answer this - like I know so much of this foreign!! However, peat moss I believe does retain water. I'm sure the experts will have more to say on this!! Sounds as though you have really put some thought into this :-)

Santa Barbara, CA

Louisa, sorry about the loss of the trees. Sounds like you are doing a bangup job of prepping.

You might remember that I recommend not using peat moss for three reasons: sphagnum bogs are being overharvested, peatmoss doesn't add nutrients and requires a source of N to break down, and finally peat moss tends to be hydrophobic so if it dries out will not rewet very easily.

Adding good well-made compost and good mulching to conserve moisture.

8/28 OOPS! Kathleen, I meant (Thanks louisa)

This message was edited Wednesday, Aug 29th 12:45 AM

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

And there you have it Kathleen - from the expert and I do agree about the over-harvesting of peat moss. Gardeners back home have been finding substitutes for years now and btw marsh - Kathleen lost the trees, not!! :-)

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Hmm, well made compost is questionable. I pile up the garden refuse, put old plastic silo tarps over it and let it sit a couple of years. I can't stir it and no one else has the time. But I keep trying! I had a bonus a couple of years ago when the spreader broke down and Stan cleaned it out on top of the pile that I'd been working on. Nice stuff, but the initial weed sprout keeps me busy for a couple of weeks.

I do miss those old trees. The one that fell was a concolor fir and was beautifully shaped inspite of it's proximity to the house and the other tree, which was probably red pine and not terribly attractive. The roses like the spot now and we found some neat old bottles and a pressed glass saltcellar under the roots.

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

It's always a sad loss when a tree goes down Kathleen - I once saw a Bradford Pear slowly topple over in a storm and it was horrible!! But your roses are happy now and you did find some 'treasures'!! One door closes and another opens!

Santa Barbara, CA

Kathleen, after maybe 40 years of making compost, my main rule of thumb is "Compost Happens." And the best stuff is material worked over by worms, so letting stuff pile up and break down over a year is just nature-paced composting. The main difference between hot bacteria-dominated composting and the fungi-dominated cold pile is the nutrient qualities of the two types. Generally the fungi-dominated compost is good for woody plants while the bacteria-dominated compost is good for annual plants.

But don't worry, the cold compost will help your soil and improved plant growth and moisture retention.

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