Need your help..What seeds/plants do well in poor soil?

armyyifeMarch 9, 2009

I have two long areas along the back of my fence that just have poor dry soil (full sun). I have too many other areas that I already have enough work to do in and I just don't have the time or money to amend the soil good enough to grow most plants in. I have been adding little by little to these area but for whatever reason it is still poor.

So anyway, because it is a magnet for weeds and grass and looks terrible as it is visible from the street I want a quick fix for this year as I'm tired of looking at it. The fence runs along the entire back of my property and has 2 med. sized maples and between them I have good soil where I have 5 antique roses and a butterfly bush growing in. Then on each side of that I have ugly. So I borrowed a friends tiller and plan to just till up what their is and scatter seeds like Cosmos (only ones I can think of that can actually grow there) all over so I have sort of like wildflower beds on either side. Can you all please suggest some that maybe you know of that would be ok here? HELP!!


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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Native plants will grow in what you have. If they waited for the soil to be amended, they would never grow. You can check with the Native Plant Assoc. in your area, they should be able to help you. And I am not just talking about roadside wildflowers. Many of our desirable garden plants started as a 'native'.

Many herbs like soil on the poor side. Poor soil, and dry soil, they are happy. Look them up on the internet, or check out the herbal society near you.

Cosmos, nasturtium, and zinnia will all pretty much grow where they land. Lots of others too, but these are my main three.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 2:22PM
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Nell Jean

Hvae you ever heard the expression, "Dirt so poor it wouldn't grow peas?"

Pea vines grow lush in rich soil, but you get peas in poor soil.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 3:29PM
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eduarda(Z10 - Portugal)

Succulents. There are lots of different ones and they can look amazing. Sedums, hens and chicks, aloes, there are also carpet types ones. I have quite a few of these growing in my garden in areas where the soil is also less than good and they do very well, provided they have sun, which you said you have. Low growing ground covers such as different types of thymes will probably do well too and they can be mixed in with succulents.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:08PM
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The soil along the fence is not what the rest of my yard or area is for that matter. "Normal" soil for this area is clay and I have no idea (perhaps from when they built the house which is only a few years old) why the soil along my back fence is so poor and dry. Would native plants do well even if the soil isn't like the rest of the area? I read that meadow wildflowers do better in poor soils verses woodland wildflowers but I couldn't find any names of "meadow" wildflowers. I tried growing sunflowers in it one year and they never got bigger than a foot if that! When I till it it's like dust everywhere, like powder. Will Cosmos and zinnias do well in that bad of soil? I'm really looking for a meadow like look along the fence. Oh if money could grow on trees! ~Meghan

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:21PM
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There may be something in that soil such as gypsum from scraps of wallboard used in construction.

I think I'd try to do a quick and cheap amendment using free used coffee grounds (UCG), dry leaves, or some grass clippings. Earthworms like both those amendments and if you can get some worm food in that bed it would make it easier. You could just layer it on top and water well. See what happens. Even if it doesn't attract a lot of worms it should make the soil less dusty.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:32PM
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I'd stay away from using annuals which require more fertilizers and water.

Coneflowers, sages, coreopsis are some examples of meadow flowers. Add California poppies too. Look for perennials with deep taproots.

Look for succelents like echeveria and kalanchoes and aloes and sedums.

herbs like lavender & rosemary

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:36PM
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I have several plants that always disappointed me until I
planted them in a sunny, lean, bed around a gravel parking
lot. There they have prospered and bloomed well.--Sedum
Autumn Joy, 3 or 4 yarrows, Russian Sage which I had almost
killed with kindness, Yucca Filamentosa, Salvia Cardonna and Salvia Purple Rain, Tall Bearded Iris.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:45PM
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dryad58(z4/5/ CO)

I second the California poppies! They are so bright and beautiful and seem to do better the worse the soil is. Another good one is catmint. It grows no matter what. I have Walkers Low in my hellstrip and don't have to think twice about it. Tansy also seems pretty hardy, but it might be invasive if there is no hard winter to kill it off. As it is, crushed under snow packed by plows for half the winter, it still comes back strong every year. And if you want some spring color, you should try Muscari. That is another plant that will not die no matter what you do to it.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 11:54PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I wonder if you could just dig up a few spots and improve them, then plant something like sweet potato vine that would spread over the bad part. It does take water though. I wonder if there is buried rubble also.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 2:48AM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Sow some alfalfa or clover. When it dies back in the heat, turn the plants into the soil. Then do the same thing again this winter using them as a ground cover. My dad in SC does this in his garden every winter. It's taken a few years, but the soil does get better each year.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 8:10AM
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lgslgs(z6 SE ohio)

Around here we have really poor rocky Appalachian hill soil. But it seems like around every bend is an old farmhouse with a huge garden bed full of zinnias - sometimes with cosmos and bachelor buttons mixed in.

Zinnias seem to be the ones that people here grow when the soil won't let them grow anything else and the gardens are really pretty.

Cerinthe is also one to consider. Mine do best in the very worst (leanest baked dry soil) parts of my garden.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 9:26AM
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Thanks for the help! It's funny I was reading more about Zinnias and many places said they like fertile soil. I also read how roses like well drained soil and mine are thriving in slightly amended clay, about6 of them. It just goes to show ya never really can go by what the "books'say. I will amend these area maybe this fall but they are just way to long to deal with it now and I already have my work cut out for what I have started and haven't finshed from last year. I just don't have the money to buy all that I need to to amend it all or buy the plants for and I like to get what I've started already looking lush before I go starting anymore beds. So with all that said I've got some combos that I think I'm going to try and work with and hope they do well enough. Anything is better then what I have now! So Cosmos, zinnias, poppies, and yarrows (have some I can transplant). I think those will do nice to fill in the area and give me the meadow look I'm wanting (for now).

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 9:53AM
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nckvilledudes(7a NC)

I would hesitate to sow clover as a cover crop unless you can make sure you kill it off or it is a variety that you know dies off in the heat. The heat may take it back when it arrives in NC, but with cooler weather it will come back. I have oversown what is left of my lawn with white Dutch clover and it doesn't die off in the heat, but rather goes dormant and comes back strong at the end of winter and in the fall.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 10:45AM
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westcoastgardener(8 SunshineCoast B.C.)

I have a scrubby back area along a perimeter fence, sounds similar to what you've described. Nothing would grow there (except weeds). Finally I've had some success with flower carpet roses . They require once a year pruning and twice-a-year feeding and that's it. They don't mind poor soil and mine need less watering than perennials.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flower Carpet Rose Planting Guide

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 12:40PM
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Bachelor Buttons
Gloriosa Daisies
Most herbs
Most Salvias
Vinca Minor
Portulaca (rose Moss)
Japanese Lanterns
Money Plant
California Poppies
Sweet Alyssum
Black-eyed Susans
Day lilies
Shasta Daisies
Butterfly weed
Morning glories
Cypress vine
Creeping Phlox

Those are some I can think of off hand.
Hope this helps.

~ Annie

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 10:41AM
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pfmastin(8 N. Carolina)

I would add celosia spicata...wheat celosia...especially Cramer's Amazon.

Here is a link that might be useful: Celosia spicata Cramer's Amazon

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 10:41PM
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