Gardening at a Rental House

Question:

I've recently moved into a new house and last Sunday I started cleaning out my front flower bed. Come to find out its full of gravel! I've been told not to worry, to just put down top soil. I've also been told to sift the gravel out. The soil is also super silty.

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I've also started morning glory, sunflower, zinnias, moon flowers, and salvia seeds. They are all planted in regular soil from my garden (minus the gravel) in an egg crate in my kitchen. Can I water them with Miracle Gro to help them along, or will that burn them? I know morning glory is voracious, but I've got trellises and the time to cut them back when needed.

Also, any idea for a small colorful (preferably blooming) tree I can plant in a very large barrel for my front yard? I'm a renter but I'd like to have a pretty little tree.

Hardiness Zone: 10a

Marisa from Santa Maria, California

Answer:

Hi Marisa,

As long as you loosen up the layer of gravel and put down 8-12 inches of topsoil, you should not have to worry about removing the gravel to plant some annuals. I would be careful with using Miracle Gro on small seedlings, though. Fertilizing is easy to overdo, especially on delicate seedlings. You're better off waiting until your seedlings develop their second set of true leaves before you start feedings. And even then, I would start with a diluted (half strength) fertilizer and work up to full strength if they don't seem to be responding.

You mentioned you have silty soil. This kind of soil offers good drainage, but also tends to contain more nutrients and holds moisture better than sandy soil. If you mix some good quality compost in with your topsoil, your plants should have more than enough nutrients to get off to a good start. Annuals do need more frequent feeding than perennials because they expend all of their energy in one season. You can either apply a slow release fertilizer (dry) early in the season or feed plants with a liquid soluble fertilizer (like seaweed extract or fish emulsion) every 2-3 weeks. In either case, just follow the directions carefully and you should be fine.

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If you are using an organic fertilizer on annuals, plan to apply it three or four times each season. Annuals like geraniums, impatiens and "wave" petunias need to be fed once a week for peak performance. Water plants the day before you plan to fertilize. Carefully follow all the directions on the package and try to spread the fertilizer evenly. Water dry fertilizers immediately applying them to "activate" them and settle them into the soil. Also keep in mind that fertilizers will leach more quickly through sandy soils than through heavy, clay soils.

As for small trees, I would contact a local nursery and tell them what you are looking for. Even a small tree can be a large investment, so make sure you select a species that will have the best chance for success. Most quality nurseries grow both full-sized trees and specimens suited for large containers. They should have many good suggestions for you.

Above all, don't forget to contact your landlord to get written permission before you alter any landscaping.

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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March 6, 20080 found this helpful

All depends on how much work you want to put into it. Couple of choices:

Match the plants to the soil. Ask your garden center for more details.

Add some topsoil is a good idea, but when it comes down to it, cow manure is the answer to everything. 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 manure, and 1/3 peat moss to hold the moisture and you will be good to go. Bring on the Blooms!

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March 6, 20080 found this helpful

There's a tree called a "crepe myrtlette", a crepe myrtle bred to grow in containers. The're beautiful, fragrant and easy to grow.

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March 7, 20080 found this helpful

Hello fellow dirtlover! I wouldn't bother screening gravel out if it was under 1" size, and just add good stuff to it. You can layer the additions and not stir them in a method called 'lasagna gardening', and then only stir where you dig a planting hole. I second that good advice about composted cow manure. It is dampish, doesn't stink or draw flies, and it looks for all the world like wonderful black dirt. Weed seeds don't start easily in it. Plants love it. It's one of the only mulches that improve the nutrient of the dirt instead of hurt it like wood products do. Be lavish with it, use it 6" deep, and you will be the happiest gardener around forever! Call a dairy equipment supplier (yellow pages) nearby, ask which dairies have manure composting, and go get a truckload for like $10. It's almost addictive (of course I don't eat it). It transformed my yard.

BTW, nothing could make me plant morning glory. The roots of that weed can run clear under your house's foundation and come out the other side. It will completely take over. I moved to get away from it. God bless you, Kim

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March 7, 20080 found this helpful

I would make some grow boxes and could move them to where ever you end up.

Here is the address

http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm

Enjoy!

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March 10, 20080 found this helpful

HOPE YOU HAVE A LOT OF SUN FOR THOSE PLANTS. THE MOONFLOWERS MIGHT NEED MORE WATER AND MORE FILTERED LIGHT?

YOU KNOW THAT THEY ARE ALL ANNUALS THAT DIE AFTER ONE SEASON? HOWEVER, I AGREE THAT THE MORNING GLORY IS A HUGE MISTAKE, TAKING OVER WHEREVER THEY ARE. I'D NEVER PLANT THEM EVER AGAIN. ALTHOUGH THEY ARE NOT REALLY ANNUALS, THEY WILL MOST OFTEN RESEED AND MAKE A THOUSAND PLANTS EACH YEAR, INCREASING BY THAT MANY EVERY YEAR THEREAFTER. THEY ARE ALSO VERY POISONOUS TO PETS, AND CHILDREN.

THE GRAVEL IS LIKELY THERE BECAUSE IT IS EITHER A VERY HOT BED DRYING THE GROUND TOO BADLY WITHOUT IT, OR THERE WAS A FOUNDATION PROBLEM, OR SOMEONE WANTED TO HAVE A DRIER AREA WHERE THEY PLACED GRAVEL. VISUALLY IT EXTENDS A WALK OR A PATIO, BUT IF TOO DEEP, IT CAN CHOKE THE ROOTS OF YOUR PLANTS. IF THE AREA IS TOO WET, GETTING TOO MUCH WATER OR DRAIN-OFF FROM ANOTHER SOURCE, I'D REMOVE SOME OF IT, LEAVING NO MORE THAN TWO INCHES OVER THE SOIL. IF LARGER GRAVEL, I'D RAKE IT, OTHERWISE, SWEEP IT INTO A DUST PAN OR SHOVEL IT OUT AS LONG AS YOU HAVE YOUR GOAL IN MIND.

REMEMBER THAT YOUR TRANSPLANTS NEED TO HAVE AT LEAST FOUR

MATURE LEAVES BEFORE PLANTING OUTSIDE, AFTER ALL DANGER OF FROST, LIKELY IN THE MIDDLE OF APRIL FOR YOUR AREA DOWN SOUTH. IF THERE ARE ANY TREES NEAR IT, CONSIDER HOW MUCH SHADE THEY WILL PRODUCE ONCE THEY LEAF OUT, IF THEY ARE NOT EVERGREENS.

IF THE GRAVEL IS CLEAN AND NOT MOLDY OR DIRTY, YOU MIGHT HAVE BETTER LUCK PLANTING IN IT, BUT IF ANY SIGN OF MOLD, I'D REMOVE IT AWAY FROM THE PLANT BASES AT LEAST WHERE YOU PLANT THE TRANSPLANTS.

I'D USE 1/2 LANDSCAPERS MIX AND 1/2 COMPOSTED COW MANURE, BECAUSE THE GRAVEL IS OFTEN ALKALINE AND WILL ABSORB MOISTURE AWAY FROM YOUR PLANTS IF TINY ROCKS, AND ALLOW MOST WATER TO DRAIN THAT YOU HOPE THE PLANT WILL GET. YOU WILL HAVE TO EXPERIMENT UNTIL YOU FIGURE THE BEST RESULTS.

YOUR PLANT CHOICES ARE LIKELY ALKALINE LOVERS, BUT MANY PLANTS LIKE THEIR SOIL A BIT MORE ACIDIC THAN ALKALINE.

I'D CONSIDER SOME NATIVE PERINNIALS AS WELL, INTERMIXED WITH YOUR ANNUALS.

REMEMBER ALSO THAT YOU NEED TO PINCH BACK THE TOP GROWTH AND FIRST FLOWER BUDS OF EACH PLANT TO ENCOURAGE A STRONG

ROOT SYSTEM RATHER THAN A WEAK FLOWERING LEGGY STEM ON EACH PLANT, WHICH THEY ALL TEND TO DO AT FIRST, AS IF OVER ANXIOUS TO MAKE US HAPPY. LOL

WATCH FOR FOLKS TOSSING LARGE CLAY POTS TO SET ON YOUR GRAVEL, AND PLANT A FEW VEGGIES OR HERBS AMONG YOUR FLOWERS, OR ASK FRIENDS/NEIGHBORS TO SHARE ANYTHING OF WHICH THEY SEEM TO HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH. MOST WILL HAPPILY

SHARE. WHEN YOU GET SOME EXTRA THINGS, YOU MIGHT SHARE WITH THEM IN RETURN.

1 TABLESPOON OF EPSOM SALTS IN A GALLON OF WATER IS A WELCOME TO MOST ANY PLANT. SPRAYING SEA KELP, MIXED IN WATER ACCORDING TO DIRECTIONS ON THE BOTTLE, ON THE LEAVES MAKES ANY SICKLY SPINDLY PLANTS PERK UP WITH ADDED OBVIOUS IMPROVEMENT.

GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS YOUR EFFORTS. : )

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March 13, 20080 found this helpful

It's expensive, but if you can get ahold of some mushroom (or other good) compost, that would be a great replacement for some of the manure.

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March 13, 20080 found this helpful

You are getting some really great advice in these responses.

You mentioned something pretty to grow in a container in your yard. I would take a trip to a plant nursery and talk to some qualified folks there. The zone you are in perhaps has certain conditions to consider and free advice from a trained nursery person would help. (What a way to spend a morning ... surrounded by acres of PLANTS!)

I live in south Texas and HIBISCUS do well here as long as they get plenty of water and some light shade during the 115 degree days of mid-summer. Peace and Blessings, Joan

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April 18, 20080 found this helpful

I also love to garden - flowers and a large vegetable garden.

PLEASE . PLEASE DO NOT PLANT MORNING GLORIES.

You say you have time to trim them back as needed, but you also say that you rent.

I've lived here for thirty six (36) years and I swear every year at the renters that planted morning glories here. As I said 36 years and I'm still pulling up the nasty WEED, that keeps trying to choke out my other plants.

There are so many pretty flowers - PLEASE do NOT plant Morning Glories.

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April 21, 20080 found this helpful

heres the scoop my mother can start anything from a cutting clipping etc she has grown rose bushes and trailing roses from a clipping and started about 5 lilac trees from just a forked branch my mother uses coffee grounds paper and all and egg shells and she adds this to compost and into ground as fertilizer she makes egg shell water and it works for a while we thought she wsas nuts but now we actually do this and star bucks has best coffee grounds just go in there or in drive through and they will bag a huge bag for free all you do is ask

it is called starbucks for your garden!!! heck its the least they can do as they charge an arm and leg for mediocre coffee!!!! i guarantee whatever you grow willl be successful also go to dollar general they have seeds 4 pks for a dollar!!!!

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October 13, 20110 found this helpful

I agree with Tejas. Morning glories are a real mess to keep up with! They spread like wildfire and there's no way to keep them in check. I sure hope you haven't planted those yet! If you want morning glories, try planting them in a location where they can run wild growing up something. The love to climb and to spread and will very soon take over your whole garden and even your whole yard.

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August 31, 20130 found this helpful

I found this topic interesting because we will soon be renting out our home and I have extensive flower gardens and shrubbery. I was thinking about a incentive for insurance these gardens get watered in hot weather, I would not expect a tenant to do weeding, just mow the lawn and water the plants. I was thinking about if they take care of the lawn they could have a rent free November so they could Christmas shop, is it a good incentive idea. I thought maybe I could show appreciation that way.

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August 31, 20130 found this helpful

The person who wanted to plant Morning Glories, I agree they are messy, however they look and do well trailing up a bird feeder pole or a mailbox. Linda H. Bellevue, N.E

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August 31, 20130 found this helpful

I have one more idea for a renter who loves flowers, those plant hangers that hang over a fence or lattice look great and imagine how many you can line up on a fence!

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