Please help! Planting Fruit in Sandy/Rocky soil alongside buildi

KendraSchmidtSeptember 4, 2012

I'm trying to turn the area alongside my building into an area in which I can plant fruit, namely blackberries.

The soil there is not soil, but it is instead full of rocks and builder's sand.

I'm attempting to dig that out and replace it using a shovel.

I want to replace it with cow manure, etc. so that I can plant my blackberry vines.

My question is, HOW FAR DOWN do I have to dig until I can begin replacing the rocks, etc. with cow manure and other amendments?

PLEASE, if someone could help I'd appreciate it.

I'd just like to know how many inches down I need to dig and remove the rocks, etc before I can begin tossing in the manure and other amendments.

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Anyone, please? :0(

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 1:55PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


It depends on what's below the surface. Do you think there is any good soil down below?

Another possibility is to just build a bed above what's there. In either case 8-12 inches is about the minimum depth of soil in which you might attempt to grow berries.

Good topsoil plus compost would be better than all cow manure. The manure will breakdown and disappear in a few years then your 12 inches becomes 3-4 inches.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:10PM
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Over the years the manure or compost gets integrated into the sand. Knowing how hardy brambles are, I would just topdress, plant and wait, unless it is 90% rocks. If it is 50% rocks, it will be fine. My raspberry have been since 1997 in a bed between patio and driveway, and underneath is mostly broken concrete (in very sandy soil). They have done well, with yearly applications of organic matter and nothing else.

Less than optimal, and the plants will progress a bit more slowly, but in time it will be mixed in finely, with no work except spreading the manure. A good, hybrid solution would be to build a low bed, fill with manure, plant, then refill with manure as it gets absorbed.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:37PM
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The soil starts to look "red" or orange the further down I dig, and there are these rocks that look almost like lava rocks. I only dug maybe four inches down, so far, so I think those are there since the building was built. I don't see anything that looks like something a plant's roots can penetrate. I have to use a hoe to break through what's down there because it's pretty packed. Should I even do this?

Unfortunately a raised bed is not an option. :o(

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 12:25PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Throw on some compost/manure and plant. Red soil is usually pretty well drained. That should grow blackberries.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 1:18PM
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Is there a basement on this building? The rocks might be along the foundation for drainage. If you add dirt and water the area a lot, it might cause moisture problems in the basement.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 8:36PM
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As stated before, I have done it, but you may not be so lucky.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 8:40PM
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alan haigh

Check the soils pH ahead of time. Next to your building it might be excessively alkaline.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 4:20AM
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Ok, now I read the post about rocks and drainage. There is a basement. Should I put the soil and rocks back, and if I do that (which I'm going to do, in case they're there for soil) will it ever compact again the way it was before??

I wish I had received that answer days ago, I bagged everything up. Very regretful.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 9:01PM
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The reason I mentioned about the drainage, was that we had to dig down to the bottom of the foundation wall, replace the drainage tile there and then refill it with rocks to correct a water problem. Then we put a layer of dirt over it for looks. I wondered if that was what you might be encountering. Yes, it will probably settle back to what it had been eventually. I have also found that things don't grow well under a roof overhang with eaves troughs. It is too dry. It is meant to be dry. On the other hand, brambles seem to grow in most anything, though they will usually not produce much fruit in dry conditions. If you move out beyond the dripline of the roof, you might find better soil where you could plant them. Some of the canes could probably sprawl over into the dry area if it is sunny there. Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 9:37PM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Hi Kendra,
Another thing to consider is the positioning of the sun for maximum AM exposure and how close to the foundation you plan on planting. Is the proposed planting on a N,S,E, or west facing? Harvestman raised a good point about being close to the foundation. I'd stay 3 feet away, at least, especially with a basement as you want to keep the water away from the concrete or use a plastic barrier to divert any excess away from the foundation.
I have some royal purple raspberries that are facing east, 1foot away from the dripline along the garage and get a little extra water, protection from the intense PM sun, and get early morning sun to keep the fungi in check. It's a nice arrangement.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 8:48AM
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