clay soil + pebbles

tabassamJuly 23, 2005

Hi, we moved in a suburban house that had shrub borders. I took them out because they were sickly and unsightly and I wanted to start fresh. The problem is the beds have so much pebbles and small rocks and hard red clay. I'm use to sandy soil-- so I'm unsure on how to go improving the soil. I have been adding aged horse manure and leaf pro-- wondering if I need to sift the pebbles out. Thanks.


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I have the same problem when I establish new beds. Just keep adding the organic matter (compost). Unless a pebble is in my way when planting, I don't bother with them.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 12:41PM
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braspadya(z7a MD)


I have had to deal with this sort of problem before. There is still an old gravel driveway that runs through my back yard a few inches below the soil level. I built a heavy duty sifter to get rid of most of the gravel. I used plastic coated wire mesh with 1/4 openings, & sandwiched it between 2 layers of pressure treated 2 x 4's. The wood is just screwed together.

It is sized to be big enough to sit on top of my wheelbarrow. The dirt gets shovelled on top of the sifter & I use the shovel to break up the clods & force the dirt through the sifter.

This sort of stone removal adds a lot of time to preparing any new beds. But it does help a lot in loosening up heavy clay soils. You have to decide how bad your soil is, but I think the results are well worth the extra work.



    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 9:52PM
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gardenpaws_VA(z7 NoVA)

Before you take all the pebbles out, look at what you want to put in the bed. I have a similar situation right against my house on the south side, and I haven't bothered to remove the rocks. Why? The orientation and the rocks between them let me grow zone 8 Mediterranean plants in that location (in my otherwise zone 7a yard). If you have good drainage aside from the clay itself, and want to do what I did, add compost and maybe even some sand to break up the clay, start with SMALL plants, and enjoy your rosemary, artemisia, penstemons, agastache, bulbs, drought-loving iris, etc. BTW, the key to doing this is letting the stones show on the surface - they warm the soil and keep the stems drier in wet weather.
If you want to do conventional shrubs, you probably will want to remove as many pebbles as possible and work compost into the clay to open it up.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 11:04PM
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