I hardly have any topsoil on my property. It is mostly gravel underneath. What can I grow?
By Vguy from Earle, AR
Rather than trying to grow things is terrible 'soil', you would be much better off looking into 'New Square Foot Gardening', also known as raised bed gardening. In the square foot method, you make 4-ft square frames out of untreated 2 x 6 lumber and fill this with your growing medium. The book of the same title explains all of this. Check out a copy from the library or buy a copy for around $10 online... shop around. Be sure it is the 'NEW' Square foot gardening book. I am just someone using this method and I'm very happy with it. I don't know the author and have no business relation with him.
I agree with Duanedv or dig holes with hold diggers to plant flowers & etc. You can also make raised beds with bricks or cement blocks, good luck.
Gravelly soil is like a viscous cycle, it drains well, but it doesn't hold moisture long, so plants have to be watered more often. 4" to 6" of mulch will help with the moisture problem and will improve the soil as the mulch deteriorates over time. Be sure you keep adding new mulch as the old deteriorates. The link is a list of plants that like gravelly soil. Best of luck.
For long term solutions -- compost, compost , compost.
Try looking in the library for books on soil conditioning and composting. You are not the first person who has had to improve awful soil.
If money is not an issue, have good topsoil trucked in. It is a major investment, but worth it in the longterm. I have poor soil under my front lawn and it dries out much faster and doesn't grow as well as the back lawn, which was formerly used as a vegetable garden, and had good topsoil hauled in. Also, you don't have to do the whole yard at once. Make a five year plan, to spread the costs.
Another alternative is to use paths and paving stones, gravel beds, like in a Japanese garden. Then the spaces inbetween can be filled with good topsoil, and you will not need to cover such a large area.
I put in something called Snow on the Mountain. It is a ground cover. It has started to take over my gravel driveway so I'm sure it would work as long as it can be grown in your zone.
I too live in AR where there's nothing but ROCKS! After 4 years of unsuccessfully getting something to grow in the earth here, I'm using 5 gallon buckets and homemade "kinda" raised beds to grow a few things. Our county extension sells compost by the truckload ($6 per load) and the buckets are obtained from a fast food chain that otherwise tosses the buckets in the landfills. I use logs, wood and big stones to enclose my beds (all free) and shop around town for the best deals on plants (including clearance and reduced). My limitations to what I can grow have been greatly reduced by using these things. Here's a pic of the beans I have now. I will follow this post with a pic of my potatoes and tomatoes in buckets. Good luck!
There are a lot of plants that thrive in rocky soil, hens and chicks, iris, ornamental grass and coreopsis. There are a ton of plants for rock gardens, and tons of native natural plants love rocky soil. For inspiration and ideas check out your local area for things that grow naturally already.
Two of my 6 tomato plants have flowers already and the little husky cherry has fruit. To prep the bucket, I made holes along the lower side and bottom for drainage, added a little of my own "compost" material that's mainly leaves and pebbles I've raked up, topped with about 6-8 inches of Miracle Grow (hubby purchased before we found out about soil/compost from county extension), put in the plant and sat on the southside of our home. So far they're doing great!
I've never grown potatoes but thought this method was interesting and wanted to try it. We bought little red potato seed at Lowe's and prepped the buckets. After adding about 4" soil, I added 2 little potatoes to each bucket. Now I think I should have stuck with 1 in each bucket, we will see how it goes. I may end up laying them on their sides and continuing layering the straw on as the green emerges.