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Gardening at a Rental House

Category Miscellaneous
A raised bed garden in the backyard of a rental house.
Knowing your garden maintenance responsibilities and rights are important to keep a healthy relationship with your landlord. This guide is about gardening at a rental house.
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April 17, 20081 found this helpful

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

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Comment Was this helpful? 1
By guest (Guest Post)
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!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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.

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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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By guest (Guest Post)
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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