In The Garden: Hints From a Mrs Gardener – Gardening With Poor Soil

Submitted by Joan Regan

I got a couple of messages last year (this year as well) “What can I plant in my garden when the soil seems ‘Dead’?” One gal in particular had bought an older home with an area by their garage that she thought might have been a dumping zone for “whatever”. I suggested that she cover the area with cardboard, at least 2-3 layers, and lay down a thick layer of wood chips and then containers. Yep, there I go again “Containers”. Well, she did just that – took me up on just putting Perennials in them – full sun, part shade, full shade – and she got back to me just recently that the corner is now the highlight of the yard. And no weeding! Some of the plants she used were: a Gypsy Fern, Hostas, Meadowsweet, Coral Bells, even a small Hellebore, and a Shasta, some Day Lilies, Cone Flowers, and some annuals pitched in. She was thrilled that the bunnies couldn’t reach them. Just another reason for my love affair with containers.

I have an area in the middle of our yard that is the same. Things will grow, they just don’t flourish. I blamed it on everything from all the peat moss I put there when I didn’t know any better, to the trees and their roots, the slope with the water run off…. and I was considering digging it up and giving up on it. Light bulb moment! Containers. OMG this whole yard will be just containers. 

So the first to get dug up was an Empress Wu Hosta, over 5 years old and should be huge by now. When she came out (way too easy) she had no new roots and would not have survived another winter. A tiny Astilbe was also struggling and she was also potted up and this year she is flowering and huge. 6-8 other small spindly Hostas were next and surprisingly two Hellebores were thriving. They stayed put. Even the ferns came out; all were potted up and I can’t believe the difference this year. The smaller Hostas almost look like they’re jumping out of their pots after a rain. One more big spindly one, a couple of smaller ones and that garden is completely all pots and it is becoming one of my favorites. The two smaller ones left I have replanted twice, good soil, compost. Mulch. Nothing has helped. 

BTW, every plant that came out of this garden was taken down to bare root. The roots were washed off with the hose to get the old soil off them and soaked in a pail of water to completely hydrate them (3-4 hrs; they all seemed to be bone dry). Guess the other poor Hostas will have to wait, right now it is pouring rain. 

BTW, all containers have good drainage; the key to successful container gardening. Glad of that, it is pouring out.

So Happy Gardening (when you can get out to garden ) and Keep Safe,

Joni 519 596 2389