Clueless -- but would like a rock garden

stinkytiger(z5 - z6)June 26, 2007


I am interested in a rock garden but am basically completely clueless as to what is involved. I live in New York State, Westchester county. I think I am in an unusual position in that I have the rock, lots of it! The bit of garden I am trying to rock garden on is about the lenght and size of 4 minivan's parked end to end (Honda Odessy size).

I ended up with this big chunk of rock after blasting to build my house. On one side is rock bits and dust which I am slowly removing and cleaning up (heavy going). On top is a mat of top soil from then the rock was part of a wood. And down the other side is a steep slopped drop of about 40 feet.

My questions are:

1) Are rock gardens high maintenance? Is there such a thing as a low-maintenance rock garden?

2) What sort of watering needs can I expect given my location?

3) How much top soil do I need for plants? I am trying to decide if in some areas if I want to remove top soil and rock bits which is about 1-2 inches and reach bare rock. Or should I add more top soil and make it a place to plant plants. Do I need lots of top soil to get past winter freezes, or else my plants will die?

4) My garden is like deer resturant central. Is a rock garden a non-starter because the deer will eat it? They seem to eat everything. I am in a high deer population zone.

Thanks for any comments / suggestions.

Warmest regards, Mike.

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tracyvine(6 NE Ohio)

Mike: Welcome to rock gardening! Let me start by saying that my rock garden is small and compact but I keep adding on to it because it has been relatively easy and fun for me. I inherited a pile of large rocks that were over run by sedum when we bought our home. Over the last few years I have been moving them around and creating wells withing rock sections and adding topsoil with humus for nutrients. I have planted creeping phlox, irish moss, rock soapwort, yarrow, hardy geranium, lavenders, canterbury bells, dianthus, as well as various annuals for a splash of color when some of the others are not in bloom.

I too live in a heavily deer populated area and they have left all of this alone. It is a relatively maintenance free area as long as you have easy access to your plants, I have one section that is sunken and encircled by very large rocks which requires me to climb into in order to pull weeds. Not so fun sometimes! LOL!

The amount of watering depends on how hot the area will become throughout the summer. Is it full sun, full shade or a happy medium? Also, because you have a steep slope you will want to make sure you have adequate soil retention. Make sure that your soil won't erode with heavy rainfalls by placing your stones strategically to reduce any washout.

My rock garden is in full sun and gets extremely hot. I water every morning. You should see the steam roll off of the stones when I water. I add humus every spring for added nutrients to spent soil and more dirt if things have settled too much. Over all I think this has been an enjoyable experience, certainly a learning experience for me as I had never rock gardened before. Every full sun plant that I have tried has flourished. Very satisfying!


I would love to see some pics of the area you are about to develop!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 1:11AM
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cynandjon(Z 5/6)

Mike forget the deer, you have to spray. Im in PA we have a huge deer problem and Deer out works great. Its good to find 2 good sprays that work then alternate every other month.
Could you post of picture of the spot where your garden will be?
I use a lot of sedums,sempveriums etc. If its a steep slope ground covers work great. You just have to take into account whether its shady or sunny.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 11:12AM
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