Shallow root systems?

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I have a line-up of 29 two-holed cinder blocks across my yard, and just direct seeded the holes for the fall season (carrots, chives, garlic, several herbs, a small pointy cabbage, dwarf kale, and then some spinach that I planted too early so will have to plant again when things cool off.

NOW -- What I'd like to do is plant things in front of the cinder blocks. There is bare earth there. I dug it down a couple inches, then mixed in some "MG organic Garden Bed soil for vegetables and flowers" and have it sort of banked up against the holes. It just comes up a couple of inches though.

What I'm *thinking* is to plant some low-to-the-ground things that have fairly shallow root systems, so that they will grow in that little banked up berm. I'd like a mix of flowers and leafy things -- a couple of kinds of lettuce, maybe alyssum (?), small marigolds, and then *possibly* punctuate the line-up with just a few bigger things -- an occasional cauliflower? A Swiss Chard? Mustard greens?

I don't know. I'm not very creative or artistic, so if someone has a good visualization of what might look nice, I'm open to suggestions.

And I mostly need to know what has a shallow enough root system. My yard has rocks just a couple inches below the surface, so nothing will be able to go very deep.

I should add that about 1/3 of the line has dappled sunlight, the rest is in full sun.
Thanks for any ideas you may come up with!

Tonto Basin, AZ

Texas sun + high temps + shallow roots = difficulty keeping soil moisture right.

Maybe a creeping ground cover or succulents like aloe vera or ice plants.

This message was edited Sep 11, 2011 6:56 PM

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks, tarheel2az. I sure hope Texas temps come down at some point this fall, but I'm starting to wonder, lol. I plan to water, but it may be more high maintenance than I can keep up with. But it's a small investment, so I'll try anyway.

I put in some small bok choy at intervals yesterday. I do have a packet of creeping thyme seeds, so that may be a good filler between the bok choy. I'll have to look up ice plants -- yours is the second suggestion I have received for that and I don't know anything about them. I'll check them out.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

The only thing about succulants is, as far as I know, they are not frost hard. I dont know how often it freezes in SA, or if you want to go with edibles. I grow lettuce all winter long, but this year has been so unusual I dont know how it will go. More record breaking temps. It has to end sometime doesnt it?

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Ice plant is succulent then -- I think I'm picturing it. Or perhaps you were speaking about aloe. Either way, I tend to have poor luck with succulents because I always overwater them.

SA may or may not have a hard freeze. It seems we get temps in the low 30s for at least part of the winter and the odd night or two below that. I usually have to haul in a few things or cover stuff.

Hmmm, After last night, I'm going to have to rethink things. A possum (I think) cruised muddily along the top of the cinder blocks last night, treating it like a cafeteria line, lol. Luckily not much was up to nibble on yet, and I had covered many of the holes with some plastic grid to keep the birds away and he left those holes alone. He only got a few mustard green seedlings that I hadn't covered. He did go through a cauliflower bed and ate all of those (darn!), trampled through a lettuce flat, and knocked over and broke the cement ornament on the birdbath -- guess he needed a drink of water after all that buffet!

No big loss, and the cement bird can be fixed (again). Hubby's searching for our Hav-a-heart trap but meanwhile, I guess I'm going to have to plant things possums will leave alone or figure out a way to protect what I do plant. Gardening sure keeps you hopping!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Yes, ice plant is a succulent, they are almost a weed in CA. I THINK the low twmps will kill them, it kills aloe but it may come back from the roots. I dont have good luck with succulents in ground because TX weather is crazy. One year it will be dry as a bone and the next year we get 18" of rain in one night. There have been years I could have grown rice, it was so wet, that would have killed the succulents.

I understand about your battle with Wildlife. Deer have been getting in my garden that is right by the house. Ive seen them many times on my property but this is the first year Ive seen them drinking out of the animal troughs. I know they are desperate to come right up to the house, thank goodness they dont care for tomato or pepper plants, but they love long beans. This morning the kids and I watched a doe with 2 yearlings out of our dinning room window, then my son went outside to get in the truck and the doe was coming around the front of the garage. He heard its hooves on the cement but it still startled him and the deer. At least he was wide awake for school. If the deer are coming that close in the daylight the only thing that will keep them out is a "game" fence. Thats not happening.

Please keep us posted on your critter issue.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Ah yes, deer. At least they are lovely to look at, but I still wouldn't want to have to deal with them. Funny to think of your son's wake-up call!

It turns out it wasn't a possum over here. My two sons were up in the middle of the night and observed four raccoons in our backyard. That's what we get for leaving cat food out overnight I guess. I'm hoping if we take that away and cover up the seedlings, they'll get the idea that the buffet line is closed.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I was thinking it might be raccoons, they can make a terrible mess. I was feeding one my cats on the side deck this summer and as soon as I shut the door I heard a funny noise. I looked out the door and the cat and turned into a coon.

Glassboro, NJ

What about Garlic, LiseP, they'll surely love the Lime from the Cinder Blocks, and can survive a few light Frost's...??? Just a thought...

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

MrPappyG. I do have garlic planted in several of the cinder holes. I hadn't thought about them for in front of the holes, but they might be good for a couple of tall accents here and there. Thanks for the idea.

So far, I have planted bok choy at the seams of the blocks (they've all germinated like troopers, I hope I can keep the raccoons away.) Then I ended up sprinkling white alyssum and creeping purple thyme seeds in the spaces between the bok choy. I've never had luck with alyssum but maybe this is my year, lol.

Even so, I'm betting there are going to be gaps or thin places, and will likely gap-fill with loose leaf lettuce or romaine or maybe the odd garlic as you suggested.

Tonto Basin, AZ

We have aloes as a boder plant & they are nipped by a freeze, but not killed. Last winter they survived several night in the low 20s and quite a few in the high 20s. If you have someone who can do some labor for you, maybe dig a trench in the rocky soil along the cinder blocks and fill it with good soil.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I think you're right, tarhee2az. This little slope isn't going to cut it. The pak choi are sprouted and doing okay, but I keep accidentally stepping too close, so the plants had better get big enough to catch my attention fast or I'm afraid they'll end up as roadkill. And, the alyssum seed has mostly washed downhill, I think.

The only upside so far to this whole thing is that the soil is adding insulation for the cinder blocks. Aside from that, you're right that I would be better declaring an actual bed (although the someone to do the labor of that trench is probably me!).

Glassboro, NJ

LiseP... Have you Planted any Cauliflower or Broccoli, they like the lime also, as do Spinach, Collard Green's, I Love your Contempt at Gardening, throw it in and See what Grow's, I really Do, Mother Nature is as Resilient, as You.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

MrPappyG, I've got cauliflower planted in the bed between fence and cinderblock row, we'll see how they do. I do have some cauliflower starts to find a place for, so maybe I'll stick some down there just to see what they do.

Contempt at Gardening? Well I wouldn't go *that* far, lol, but I guess I'm learning not to take each flop as a personal failure. Good think I don't have to garden in order to eat, though!

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Lise-this year everything Ive planted has been an experiment and ive been gardening for years. I feel sorry for people who have made their first attempt at gardening this year, especially in the central US down into Tx. This year has not been the norm.

I garden to eat or I like to be able to eat what I grow but apparently the deer are the only things enjoying my garden now. One was jumping out of the garden when I brought the kids home from school. They are just taking bites off the tomato plants and I wouldn't eat those anyway, but they take the blooms too. Even tho it has cooled down I haven't seen many tomatoes set and at this point I don't know if they would have time to ripen before it freezes.

Glassboro, NJ

I didn't mean to Offend ... I Love the carefree attitude, and the Throw it and Grow it attitude, you will Definately be blessed, with the hardiest Seed's around, I've done this myself at the end of the season, just throw it and Grow it...LOL, Experimenting is what's so fun about this, seeing the result's, Contempt was meant as a Compliment, sorry if it offended you, There are many who would have Guidelines, Constricted, I.E.,,, "you must grow it this way"... I find my self Tinkering with thing's daily, and wonder whether this will grow that way, or what if I do this. It has lead me to some Surprising Find's, while Gardening, and some Disaster's, but either way, I love Watching my Garden's Grow.
I made Chili, today, the Onion's, Carrot's, Jalapeno's, Tomato's, Celery, all came from the Garden's, The Beef I ground myself, From Free Range Australian Chuck, no hormone's, no Steroid's, I made Honey/Homemade Butter, Cornbread, It's one of the Most Amazing Meal's Ive ever eaten...or Cooked...and I'm an Amazing Chef....

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

ilisac - I may have to save your post to remind hubby, the next time he tells me that trying to garden in this region is a waste of time. (Of course, he didn't tell me that when he was moaning with delight over homegrown tomatoes earlier in the year!). But yes, it's good to remember that not all summers are as brutal as this one has been, and some years the rules of thumb just do not apply and all we can do is experiment! I just put in 9 tomato transplants this last week that I bought. Some have flowers and I left them on (maybe I was supposed to remove them?). Anyway, they are all in a bed over which I can throw some protection, or are in pots that I can move if necessary, so I'm going to try to baby them along as far into the fall as I can.

No worries, MrPappyG, I wasn't offended. I thought Gardening with Contempt was a great way of looking at things. I'll wear the badge with pride, and try to do more of it. Your chili sounds wonderful.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

One day I'm gonna make that chili...but, I'm not grinding meat...

Glassboro, NJ

GymGirl, if you don't grind the meat yourself, you'll miss out on an experience that will change your life. I grind all my own meat now. I get to pick the cut's of beef or Chicken that I use, and cook it the way I want. When I used to buy Ground Beef, even when I bought 95-5% Fat content , I would have a Puddle of Grease in the pan when done, now I have to add Fat most of the time to make it even Fry in the Pan.
LiseP I was just curious about how your cinder block experiment was coming, and wishing you success. I'm still picking Beautiful Brandywine tomato's off the vine, a few cucumber's, some nice String Bean's, and a few Carrot's and Beet's, WIsh you well just wanted to stop by and say Hi.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks for the howdy, MrPappyG!

My cinderblocks -- most of the seeds came up, and things looked promising, but now they are struggling with leaf miner or their leaves have holes (worm or slug, I guess). I did spray with spinosad for leaf miner but only lightly, since the plants are so small. I'm going to put Sluggo Plus down. I'm hoping they'll make it through but obviously they are stressed and more vulnerable to critters at this point.

If they make it, I will have mustard greens, spinach, Kalibos (pointy) cabbage, pak choi, carrots, garlic, cilantro, dill, radish, basil, oregano and parsley.

I think I'm learning -- I started most things from seed or planted out very small seedlings -- mistake! Outside of the dill which I started from seed and is so far doing well, the ones doing best are were larger transplants - parsley, oregano, rosemary and mustard greens. So I think I'll start more seedlings but get them bigger before they go into the holes.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)


I think you just answered a question I posted over on another thread, asking "how big is TOO big a seedling for fall transplants?"

From what I'm seeing, "bigger is definitely better" especially when it comes to the fall/winter plants.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I think the only thing I've heard about a seedling being too big, is a cauliflower transplant that already has a tiny head on it -- it will never get bigger if transplanted, according to a youtube video I saw. I wouldn't think that would happen much anyway, but I supposed you might see one for sale at a nursery.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I have just read this thread and wish to let you all know that here in UK we have had one really bad summer as far as veg / fruit growing has been, even established flower / shrub / trees have suffered from the different seasons, here in Scotland I have to grow a lot of things like tomato indoors in greenhouse as every year the seasons are too short, this May, our warmest month was wonderful, everything growing fast and furious, then came the tail end of USA Hurricane and all the tree's, taller green veg were stripped of leaves, my Rhododendron and that ilk dropped there buds, leaves was burnt, then August/ September, they began to show colour at next years buds.
I cant remember any seasons being as mixed up as this, and I've been gardening over 50 odd years.
The trees began to renew their leaves and now the winter winds have caused them to drop them again, Lord knows what next year will start off as.

As regards the original question, I would grow some herbs, you can even grow those in pots with the bottom sunk into the shallow soil, I would imagine pots would be a constant watering job but they look good, smell good as you brush past them as you walk AND a lot of things the deer don't like, insects give a miss and hey, you can dry / store them.
Lavender is another thing that could grow well there as they don't like very fertile soil.
Good luck, hope you hit on something attractive, happy gardening. WeeNel.

Arlington, TX

There is hope for late tomatos. as about 10 days ago the ones i nursed thru the brutal summer this year are now flowering agian.hopefully it will stay cool and not get too cold till december.
I want more then the 4 tomaotos i got from 6 plants early this summer.

Glassboro, NJ

Glad to hear thing's are looking Good, LiseP, I usaully use 1 or two drop's, of Dish Detergent in a 16 Spray Bottle to get rid of the Bug's, and a few planting's of Mint and Lemon Grass, it deter's the Mosquito's too. I usually Transplant, depending on weather, when the indoor seedling's get their second set of Leaves, it seem's to me that is the least amount of shock that plants receive, I'm like you still Learning, and just telling you my observation's, Now in NJ, I'm still picking, Beefsteak Tomato's, Cucumber's, String Bean's, Celery, almost Daily.
The Garlic is planted, Potato's look good, Broccoli has finally started to show and Cauliflower, Spinach is almost ready, and lettuce is everywhere, Pepper's look good and there's a ton of them,
Weenel the summer here was awful almost 60 day's of rain, I forgot what the Sun looked like, and it wasn't a USA Hurricane, it started in the southern part of Africa, LOL.
Gymgirl if you have any more info on the late Fall Transplant's please let me know. I have allway's Transplanted on the second set of leaves.
Thanks all for any Comment's, I am enjoying the Fruit's of my Labor's, and so Far no one in my Family has been Sick one Day, amazing what Real Food can do.

Delhi, LA

MrPappyG have you ever tried ground venison. That is our ground meat of choice for spagetti, chili and soups. Not worth anything for making burgers, no fat.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Here's an update on the late Fall transplants. Bubba_MoCity received a good number of my late cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts transplants. He reported this morning that he potted them last Wednesday, and they are looking great. He said the Brussels Sprouts didn't miss a single beat, and are leading the charge.

He got some mustards and collards, too, and has only lost one, probably to last week's heat.

We had torrential downpours yesterday --3" worth, in two separate waves. And, of course, the rain started AFTER I had set out the three trays of late transplants to start hardening them off for planting out this week. Well, the community pans got drenched, and I woke up with them on my mind. Visions of seedlings all over the ground in the dirt...

So, at 6am this morning, still in my PJs, I potted up almost 3 trays of Snowball cauliflowers from the community flat to 6 oz. yogurt cups and 16 oz Red Solo cups (some were too large for the yogurt cups).

This was sort of a moot point, since a neighbor tilled up his plot over the weekend, and is coming to get the cauliflower seedlings for plant out this week. I shoved them back under the fluorescent lights this morning, and will move them back outside for hardening off this evening. He can transplant the larger seedlings, and I'll nurse the smaller ones for awhile inside.

I still have a community flat of Late Dutch Flat cabbages (that I didn't drain) sitting out to harden off. These have leaves as big as African violets! The sun is high now, so I think they'll be ok til I transplant them. These are going directly into free draining buckets filled with Tapla's container mix of pine bark fines:peat:perlite...I'm gonna mix a recipe of 4:2:1 ratios, since the cabbages need a tighter growing medium.

Now, I'm curious as to what all this man-handling is gonna's got to be all good!!!



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