With nearly a year of gardening under my belt at our new house I am learning a lot. There are places in my garden where the soil is nearly undisturbed from large earth moving equipment when building the house and not much later, the pond. In those places I can dig a hole, have crumbly –albeit clay-like – soil and there are lots of worms. Whenever I put new plants in this soil they only need a few days or weeks of babying before they stretch their roots and take off.
Then there are whole areas with hard compacted soil. I dig and go down maybe three inches. I dig some more and go down a few more inches. The soil is red clay and roots have a hard time penetrating it. During a dry spell this soil turns nearly into concrete and plants wither and die. When wet there is so little airspace between the clay particles that roots nearly drown and plants will rot. Of course, with temperatures in the high eighties and nineties I get tempted to make my life a little easier, but it comes at the expense of the plants. When digging in the compacted soil I set aside the worst of it. Later I discard it in the still empty lot next door. Whatever soil crumbles in my fingers gets saved. Once the hole has been dug big enough I grab a bag of garden soil (purchased at the big box stores) and add it to the hole. Then I mix both the more crumbly clay and the garden soil so I have a mixture of both in the hole. Any disturbed worms are gingerly put back in the hole, tucked into the soil. The plant is added and the mixture of both soils is firmly put around the roots. A layer of mulch is added all around the plant. I water the new plants and make sure there are no air pockets left around the roots and there is good contact between soil and roots. Then I wait and see how well the plant responds to its new spot. When the plant droops I water it; after all it is summer and quite hot. Most respond well and soon I see new growth. Now it is just a matter to get them through their first summer and with a bit of luck they will come back bigger and better next year. So far this summer has been wetter than last summer. Just about every week we get torrential downpours, followed by gentle rains, and the garden responds with lush growth. The water bill is much lower compared to last year’s hot and dry summer!
The trays of low growing sedum purchased last fall, cut up in small pieces and planted around the edges of the pond and where soil meets gravel has grown in beyond my expectations. I now have four and five inch wide ribbons of sedum, topped off by pink flowers which attract bees, flies and small butterflies by the dozens.
Unable to find more of the same sedum at stores I carefully separate small clumps from bigger plants, and put them down in spots where I want more. Since they are succulents which resent heavy soil, I scratch small depressions in the mulch, mix it with a bit of soil and press the plant down in it. They don’t really need much water and before long I see new growth. By next year these plants will mask the edge of the beds and creep on to and into the gravel. They will also hold back the mulch which has been sliding down the slopes of the beds surrounding the pond and moving into the gravel. The garden will have a living necklace of low growing evergreen plants with pink blooms for months at the time with butterflies dancing around as little jewels. It is slowly becoming quite a magical garden.