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Help! Feel like I live in Ireland!

Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

I desperately need some advice. First, let me just say I need advice for a low budget. I am trying to figure out what I can do to make my backyard more plant friendly and not so much a "no mans land". I live in Georgia so the soil is clay, but that is not the problem. The real problem is that the ground is FILLED with rocks, big ones, little ones and everything in between! I CANNOT dig into it! Also, the yard makes a considerable slope away from my house and water tends to just pool in some areas. I have thought about trying to level off the backyard but that would require retaining walls. I know I could get a heavy duty tiller and till the area, but that wont keep my plants from drowning when it rains nor will it get rid of the rocks. I have thought about raised beds, but I would love to have grass or something in between the beds. Does anyone have any other ideas? Thanks!

Thumbnail by karma38
Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

Another picture

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Newnan, GA(Zone 7b)

Last one

Thumbnail by karma38
San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

First off you are lucky that you have clay on a slope. That means the clay will be well drained and will allow you to grow plants that have a hard time on clay. If you can create tiers in the backyard, it would be the best but that requires lots of digging. I live on a slope with clay and have been putting in railroad logs in the yard and filling it in until it becomes level on each tier. I suggest buying a good pick axe to dig up the rocks where you are planting. The tree roots will grow around them. Always rouch up the edges of the hole when planing in clay but the slick edge created by the shovel will try and not allow roots to penetrate.

You can also do small raised beds only where you are planting trees. May sure you do those at least 4x4.

If you choose to ammend you soil, do it with sand and compost but only on a large scale. It isnt worth it if you just do a small area. The minimum size for ammendment should be 3x3 feet and 2 feet deep.

Summerville, SC(Zone 8a)

Hi Karma,

I saw this picture and the trees and fence made me think of your yard. I don't know if a pool is something you would want but the landscape plan could still be used and you could have a seating area or something in that space rather than a pool. For me, I am always on a limited budget it seems. I think it helps to break it up in sections. That way you can start with some cheap lawn edging and mulch that will break down and ammend the soil over time. You can check with the county extension office as well. I know a woman that got tons of compost pretty cheap and in a year or two her back yard looked like a park. The rocks can be worked with a little at a time if you just do each section in it's turn and start with a master plan to work towards. Just an idea to get you thinking outside the box. Hope it helps.


This message was edited Mar 14, 2011 12:29 PM

This message was edited Mar 14, 2011 12:30 PM

Thumbnail by gigi57
Summerville, SC(Zone 8a)

I like this one as well...

I don't know what the style of the house is or what your personal preference is, but for both pics I am really just looking at the shapes in the design. I like the curvy back and fourth between the trees in this one and the semi-circle between the trees in the other. They could obviously be planted with whatever you wanted.

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Seattle, WA

Karma, sounds like you have a BIG project going. I have a similar problem with rocks and clay, although my clay is the gray kind they use in art class. Can't even "excavate" the weeds! I won't address your overall plan, as I haven't even created my own yet, but I like the raised bed idea very much. I have a huge yard, with a pond in front---a maintenance nightmare at times, but lovely. My garden is just a permanent work in progress--would I ever want it to be really done????? I use lots and lots of containers, and have a few different zones: the pond, the Japanese garden, the raised beds, and so on. The raised beds and pots eliminate the need for rock digging. However when I "harvest" the rocks, I consider them to be a good crop that can be used in many ways around the house, to form dry river beds, etc. For the digging, I employ a mattock---best tool ever. I pretend I'm a miner with a pickaxe, and get in as many swings as my back will allow. If you have a brawny guy around, he can take a few good swings for you just to loosen things up. Then you go back in (I sit on a little stool) with your more minor implements and rock collection buckets. If you want the lawn and the graceful flowing garden, sounds to me like you might want to bring in the heavy artillery all at once and just get it over with, bringing in a load of topsoil, compost, etc. All depends on your budget, temperament, free time, and desire to get a finished product installed quickly. In order to be economical, it's imperative to pay attention to picking the correct plants for each location, always considering their need for sun or shade and the fact that some little plants do, indeed, someday become huge. Do your research, and observe what others in your neighborhood have planted. Have a ball!

Virginia Beach, VA

I wish we live near you so I can dig and haul some of your rocks!!! LOL!!! Anytime there is a project like yours it always involves a lot of $$$ but it can be done slowly meaning years and careful planning. If I was on your shoes I would start by composting and slowly use the compost to amend the soil. Lasagna gardening is a cheap way to start and there was a very lengthy discussion on how to start. Do not tackle a big project at one time.

I do not know if zoysia grass do well in your area but we are 7-B and this particular grass thrives very well here. It takes time for the grass to spread especially if you are to start with plugs which we did. You can also ask friends for some because they creep all over the place including around rocks. It is also low maintenance and fungus resistant.

Project like this is exciting and challenging. happy gardening. Belle

Navan, Ireland

Just wondering which part of Ireland you were thinking about? The combination of clay and rocks is rather unusual. Although on clay (with it's advantages and disadvantages), rocks are something I have (thankfully) never had to contend with. It seems like you are a long way from our 'forty shades of green'!!! and look at that blue sky, it does not always rain!.

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Decatur, GA

Thats a beautiful site lortay.

brainerd, MN(Zone 4a)

Karma38 - That so looks like my back yard in MS. (Which I hated mind you - being a MN native) Our slope was MUCH steeper - but we had thought about retaining walls as well. I ended up putting sunflowers down along the fence - which the birds loved and used many containers from different places and of different materials. Little at a time with a big picture in mind. Look for things being thrown out or given away ( if it is in your area) that you can use for containers or to put together to make beds or walls.
We had the "Zoysia" grass and i felt like I was pulling it out of everything except the raised ones and the containers.
I recommend the book "The Landscape Design Answer Book" by Jane Bath as well as The Southern Living Garden Book. The first over the second, but both really informative.
Contact colleges in the area that have landscaping programs - you may be able to work something out where you only pay for supplies - not the labor or design as well. You would be helping a student in the process. :) Good luck.

Summerville, SC(Zone 8a)

I ran across another one that has what looks like a bigger slope with raised beds...

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Bella Vista, AR(Zone 6b)

Hey karma38
I feel your pain with the rocks. I have a lot of them, too.
I decided to do a native plant garden on the sunny/ dry side of my yard. I dug up the grass in chunks and moved it to help fill in the low side of the yard. It took a while, but after the grass was out I turned about six inches deep, picking rocks the whole time. I had to use a pickax and a shovel. I piled the rocks around the edge of the woods.
When I got done, the worked area was low because I had taken so many rocks out. I didn't amend it too much because natives don't like soil that is too rich, but I did add a good quality topsoil, some of my fall leaves, and some peat moss to bring it back up to level.
I don't have a lot of money, so I did it myself. Just take your time and take pics of your progress.
haha I even took a pic of my rocks.

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Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

I wish I had some geological education to understand what made your rocks. In the PNW the rocks never look like that. They are always roundish and grayish. Yours are distinctively different. And there are plenty of rocks here too and "harvesting" them provides materials for other projects, as someone has mentioned. And though they are so common, I love rocks. Don't know why, but I'm not the only one. Funny eh?

Marysville, OH(Zone 5b)

Lortay, I don't know about the clay, but the rocks are amazing on the Aran Islands. I was told that the "soil" there was manufactured by generations of islanders, using seaweed and donkey poo. That fascinated me.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Patti47, here is a little info on the "geology" of Georgia and its' rocks.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Thanks Moonhowl, it's a major study to understand what caused the differences in our rocks. Basically, heat, pressure, time, and so much of it. Makes my head spin, and worthy objects of my love, those rocks. Harder to love when they are in great abundance when want to plant LOL

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

You are very welcome. I agree, some folks have devoted their lives to it and are still learning. I read three of four google entries and think...Okay, they are rocks....and some are least none have turned out to be the Horta....yet...Grin

Navan, Ireland

The Aran Islands really are amazing when you think that the sole source of nutrients for centuries has been that very seaweed. One of the reasons that potatoes were so popular as a crop in the west of Ireland (thus allowing the '46, '47 famine) was that they adapted well to growing on very poor sites, both soil and aspect. It is an early example of what happens when you put 'all your eggs in one basket.'

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Ummm, rock farmers. One mans trash is another mans treasure.

Madison, AL


TIMESHARE equipment rental:

As for digging in your yard... One option is to talk to neighbors/people on your street, to see if anyone else is thinking about undertaking any big garden work anytime in the future. You can rent (largerscale diggers/bobcats) or smaller scale (augers) by the day. If you start early and come up with a plan, you can all split the cost for the rental. You could figure out what it costs per hour, then agree to pay by the hour that each person has it. (Do the small projects first, and end with the biggest project). IE: $250 per 10 hour day = $25 dollars per hour. If your project takes 5 hours you pay $125... Some rental companies have people to run the machines, so you're really paying for an expert AND the machine. This can cost more, but you're not having to mess around figuring out the equipment...
Another option is to see if a local church group has anyone who can come help with the manual labor. Around here there are always folks asking "Anything we can help you with?" Say YES and hand them a shovel! :-)

Leicester, NC(Zone 8a)

I think Karma has left the building LOL Hey bellieg can you post a close up picture of your zoysia grass? I put in plugs years ago and have nice soft grass but someone said it was japanese clover :-(

Leicester, NC(Zone 8a)

Never mind just read that is another name for Zoysia :-)

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

My garden is stepped on the side of a granite mountain and the main step, which is about twenty feet wide, was once a road bed. I have spent years straining gravel and pulling up stones and boulders breaking many a shovel in the process. If you ever get to the Georgia forum you might see that we have a large kitchen veggie garden with flowers and herbs too. I worked a small area at a time with a pick and built a frame with metal screening for the gravel. I added compost (leaves, manure, grass clippings, etc.) It is now twenty years older and we grow much of our food and flowers. Enough to feed friends and donate to food pantries too. Keep at it. It will pay off.

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