The Nightmare- aka the hill out back.

catrionna(7)July 19, 2010

I have an impossible goal, I'm sure. I live in the mountains, zone 6 transitioning to zone 7. My little microclimate is more of a zone 7. My property is on a fairly steep slope, acidic soil, mostly clay with veins of sandstone and mica. Once a semi-wooded lot, the previous owners graded the whole thing and then did nothing else. Basically, any good soil there once was is currently enjoyed by the neighbor across the street :)

I'm slowly making progress with my landscaping but the back hill is becoming a problem. There is no way I can put topsoil on it and have it stay put. It's baked in the summer (zone 8 desert plants would be happy) yet blasted with frigid wind in the winter (anything above zone 6 would most likely die). I have tried the rolls of straw mulch with disappointing results.

My eventual goal is to build a garage on one far side of the nightmare and cut a huge retaining wall into what's left. When I say build/cut, I mean pay someone better the me or mine to do so. Not happening anytime soon ;) I don't want to plant anything that can't be removed when that happy day arrives.

My solution thus far was to line the bottom of this nightmare with a row of cinderblock. Once some 'soil' accumulated, I enriched it and planted hardy roses which have humored me thus far. (I still think they gossip about me when my back is turned but they know where the fertilizer comes from.) The cinderblock is on borrowed time, ugly stuff, but that's to be dealt with this fall/winter. I must admit it's done the job in terms of preventing wash-out.

The barren wasteland does have a few native inhabitants- greenbrier, pokeweed, oak, maple, and black locust. (The saplings grow amazingly well to my dismay. As tempted as I am to just let them go sometimes, I do have a house to protect.) There are also a few unhappy clumps of grass, a couple of wild violets, and one brave mountain laurel.

I have sown blanketflowers, other daisy-type flowers, clover, marigolds, and creeping thyme that won't creep. All seem fairly content except for the poor clover- they were an attempt on my part to enrich the 'soil'. A friend gave me some sedum, "You can't kill them if you try!", which I have found to be true but I feel a little sorry for them.

Any suggestions? If reality, I'm willing to try anything that will grow. Ideally, I'd like to plant something that would grow, flower most of the summer, come back each year, and maybe even smell nice. I understand if you're laughing at that!

Since the hill is so steep, it would be safer if I could broadcast seed v/s planting. I'd like to try a few winter-sown seeds this year and then more seeds in the spring. I have no problems with wildflowers- I'm not wanting to landscape the nightmare- I just need to do something before erosion sets in.

I suppose I could have someone hydroseed the nightmare. Has anyone ever tried that?

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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Probably the best advice I can give is that you go to the South forum (the regional one for which the Carolinas is a subforum).
From there, look up the thread(it's usually on the first page) titled "What do you wish you had never planted?"

In that thread you'll read about some of the worst thugs in the plant world. My contribution was oenothera (sundrops). The stuff creates an actual mat of roots that not only hold the soil but are so dense that nothing can grow through them. For me, they were the flowering version of my nemesis..wild bermuda grass.
Mountain laurel and pieris should love the well drained location but their flowering period is rather brief.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 4:03PM
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It's baked in the summer

Sounds like it needs full sun plants. Daylilies are extremely hardy and you can often get divisions from friends or cheap plants on ebay.

Good temporary erosion control might be to plant pine seedlings (like loblolly). Pines are super easy to get rid of once you move onto your next phase (just cut them down, they don't resprout).

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 9:07AM
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Tammy Kennedy

perhaps periwinkle. It's pretty good at helping with erosion once it's well rooted in, and it can handle full sun and full shade, as well as cold and heat. Maybe daylilies and grasses (which also can help with erosion a lot) with periwinkle between? It's really unfortunate that it was scraped like that to begin with.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 10:12AM
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My property is exactly like yours!
I feel like I live in AZ, and I don't.
All the good soil is under the house!
I have quite a large hill that is steep also.
Full sun all day on most of it, terrible erosion during bad storms last year.
I bought cheap ROCKS.
Thank god for rocks and shredded mulch.
Not regular mulch, no, shredded mulch.
I still need more rocks, but I have to buy a litle at a time, it's too hot right now.
Besides the mulch and rocks, I planted various kinds of ornamental grass, daylillies, sedum, ice plant, wintergreen little evergreen bush, (can't remember name now), yucca, (who loves the hill), librobe, ajuga, creeping jenny, and spirea, St. John's wort, vinca vine, (hates the sun, but still alive),
and it worked!
The erosion finally stopped.
If you really don't care about having a garden there, Blue rug junipers are also a good choice, evergreen, but you have to mulch good and remember to water so they don't dry out. I have some of them too.
Whatever you do, plant something.
GOod Luck to you!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 12:48AM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions, I appreciate it!

I have seriously considered planting invasive plants but could never quite bring myself to do it. The 'what do you wish you had never planted' thread was great! It gave me some good ideas for pretty flowers that tend to behave in my area.

The same with daylillies, periwinkle, rocks, etc. Duh... why didn't I think of that? I look at the nightmare and think 'there's no hope'. Now I have a few ideas and plant names to work with so I can view the mess with a little more optimism :)

It truly is unfortunate it was scraped.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 12:20AM
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coorscat(6 and 9)

I too have property on a slope. For some of it I have retaining walls and some of it I have not.
Do didn't mention if you are on the morning or afternoon side of the mountain. But it sounds like you get quite a bit of sun, so I am guessing the morning side.
I suggest one of the euonymus varities like e. fortunei (Wintercreeper). This one will keep the soil in place and I like that the leaves change color in the fall and winter. It doesn't matter how much snow falls, it just keeps on plugging. It also survived the recent drought just fine. On other areas I have daylillies. My creeping thyme has only crept slowly, so it must be related to yours! The other thing I find that works well is bee balm. That is because it spreads like crazy where I am. I would love to hear what you find works for you.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 3:06PM
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How about Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low'?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 8:05PM
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