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Garden Thread

Lets make this a garden post and all questions, tips , advice will be here.

I have a patch of clay, everything dies there.  I have done everything-- mixing sand, compost, manure, dirt in the clay.  Now I am just fed up with this patch.  What can I put there that grows in clay other than Coneflowers?  Have a bunch of those already.  Anyone with experience with clay?
99 Responses
Avatar universal
"Milk thistle is adaptable to hot, dry areas and waste places. It is not particularly demanding as to soil type, and in fact has been reported to do well on compacted clay soils.".............;^) Pro

Avatar universal
Parts of my yard have a lot of clay.  Sedum seems to do just as well as the coneflowers, and black eyed susan.
Avatar universal
Milk Thistle of all things--Lol !  Hopefully, I won't have any use for that ever again.

Avatar universal
Oh, and one of my favs:  Russian Sage
717272 tn?1277590780
I actually do this for a living.  Clay is put together in a different way than other soil types, tightly packed together.  It can be good at holding onto water and nutrients but it has little air space and is hard to work.

The trick is to hand-dig in as much organic matter (manure, compost, peat, whatever) as you can.  Not you, but someone who is well and strong (it ain't easy to dig in clay).  Amending the soil will seperate the tiny plates of clay particles and improve drainage and air in the soil and roots will be able to get through it much more easily.  If they have expanded shale where you are (looks like little pieces of lava rock) use that.  It won't add nutrients like organic matter does as it breaks down, but the good effects will be permanant.

Amend the soil well by hand and you will be able to grow whatever you want, I promise.
412873 tn?1329174455
Actually the milk thistle sounds like a good idea.....I wonder if they sell it with the regular herbs?? I've never seen it in the stores.

One of the garden shops had stevia, but I couldn't find my way off the couch that week and missed out.  This week I am ready to dig again!!

Great idea for a thread, Tippy.  Thanks for starting it =)
Avatar universal
Thanks --I  would love to have rose bushes in that spot and will try your method and give it one more try.  

Do you know anything about Hydrangea Macrophylia?

Come to think of it I've never seen it either--maybe have to start from seed?
717272 tn?1277590780
Tons.  How obnoxious of a lecture are you up for?  They'll grow & bloom in sun or full shade but you'll need to water them more in the sun or they'll wilt badly.  Don't prune them, they really don't need to have that perfect meat-ball bush shape and if they're too tall, that's genetic and they'll just grow back again.  If you do need to prune them, do it in the summer right after they bloom or you'll end up cutting off next year's flowers.  The color is determined by aluminum (for blue).  Aluminum is taken up much more in an acid soil.  If yours is not acid, they'll be pink.

To use as cut flowers, cut them as soon as they take on their color and they'll last.  Don't cut them after they've been on the bush for a few weeks, they'll wilt.  Super easy to propagate; just cut a pencil sized stick in December, stick in the ground and it will root.  Obnoxious enough?

I've not grown milk thistle but I've seen it and it's very, very pretty, with patterned leaves.  Herb societies will usually offer it at spring plant sales, but I think it's pretty easy to start by seed.
475300 tn?1312423126
newleaf gave very good advice.  I also like double shredded mulch, about 2 inches or so.  When that stuff breaks down it is like black gold, takes time tho.  

Another thing I do around here is to dig a bigger hole add in some good dirt, the first season I planted stuff that likes more water cause there isn't real good drainage.  In the fall I cut off the dead plant and the next season I try to dig the holes in different spots.  It took me a few years but I have great soil in my beds now.

Some of the stuff I planted: azaleas, pampas, mums, dianthus, bee balm, day lillies.  the good thing about those things is they come back every year.  Lavender is another good one.

Avatar universal
Okay here's the Hydrangea problem.  I did not cut down last fall but left the flowers on for winter effect.  My husband ran out there a few weeks ago without my knowledge and cut the flowers off, but I think he cut too much ( 2- 3 inches ).  He should have just sniped it off at the top of flower  Did he remove this years flower buds?  The old wood is about two feet high do I leave it as is, or cut old wood back to where I see new growth now.  

GSD:  I will implement this along with new leafs tips.  Should be able to get something to grow there now.  We will see.

Avatar universal
Hydrengas bloom on old wood - leave it as it is.  I learned that lesson the hard way too.
Avatar universal
Just got home and haven't had a chance to read most of the thread yet. (I went to an auction and kept nodding 'yes' until hubby realized I'd lost my mind.)

I've learned mostly everything about gardening the hard way but keep trying.

I have three beds with clay soil. I tried to improve them years ago with my leaf compost but gave up.

(My best beds were actually dug up and replaced with soil for dummies.)

1)  I've had two weigelas in the slightly amended clay for twenty years. I love the elegant flowers but they blend in with the foliage, so are hard to appreciate from a distance.

2)  Our high bush cranberry is in the hardest clay in the garden, so it's a miracle. The red berries look wonderful against the snow.

3)  Our cosmos grows wherever I put it.

4)  The sedum does really well, too - it's the tall type and divides easily.

My biggest all time mistake was planting lily of the valley, which grew like crazy. I was warned many times but didn't listen. Now it's hopeless. It would probably spread in concrete.

Has anyone had luck with creeping thyme around the hardscape? I'd be so happy if I could get that going this summer.

Would like to try the milk thistle but is it invasive?

Thanks, Tippy, what a treat to come home to this. And I bought two stunning vases at the auction!
475300 tn?1312423126
coreopsis (sp?) will grow in anything,  It is really pretty but will spread, I just keep dividing it.

Port, is creeping thyme the same as the stepables?  

475300 tn?1312423126
Another good one is irises / flags.  I have really pretty chocolate brown ones. They grew in my clay with very little extra work.

475300 tn?1312423126
Are you a horticulturist?  We have a landscaping company but we mostly do hardscapes, walls, paver patios, paver driveways, ponds, hydroseeding ect.  Well hubby does the work in the field and I do the books, billing, payroll, payroll  taxes and that end of things.  

We got out of the planting pretty much.  People think that the plants don't need water or they don't need covered for the late frosts.  I am sure I will have some plant questions for you

Avatar universal
russian sage   basil   most herbs. I would try to introduce perlite ,or pebbles into the soil to promote better drainage     good luck  
Avatar universal
Here's a little garden song from Arlo.

717272 tn?1277590780
I am a professional horticulturist.  I'm degreed but have been advising folks with my job for 12 years so have answered just about every weird question there is.  Once you look it up a few times it sticks with you.  I'm also an avid gardener and being in treatment is just about killing me since I can do so little in the garden.  About all I've done this year is clean up the leaves and throw them down for mulch, fertilize the fruit trees, plant some tomatoes and...and nothing else!  

I am a collector of some goofy stuff.  Hydrangeas, for one.  Tippy, if he cut off the top set of buds you will get a few flowers but not the cover that you usually get.  I didn't even bother to remove the spent flowers this year.  Crazy about flowering trees, rain lilies and crinums and really, any kind of bulb.  I'm also good at getting rid of grass.  Every spot that seems thin gets replaced with ground cover.  Then I can let the leaves fall where they may and throw sticks into in without hauling them off.  The dog uses the ground cover as his bathroom, too, so I never even see the results.

I'm hoping to take some time off from work and will probably figure out some more low-energy stuff to do in the garden.  Hope so, letting spring pass me by has been rough.
475300 tn?1312423126
My friends family owns a nursery / greenhouse and I hang out there quite often and pick up stuff (knowledge), it is amazing what sticks in my brain LOL.  

I also have a koi pond that I have been working on since it was mostly neglected for 2 summers.  It made me crazy that I couldn't work in the yard also. In Pittsburgh it is early for planting most veggies but hubby just tilled up a pretty large area for a garden this year, like about a third of an acre.  

Flowering trees..........I like them too, I would like to line our driveway with thunder cloud plums.  You mention plants that I never heard of, different area I guess.

Avatar universal
We use to have beautiful grass until I started feeding the birds.  Its especially bad this year because of the BOSS seed, as this is the first winter I used it.  Seems that oil just kills the grass.  Oh well, will dig that area up and put a bigger garden in.  In ten years all garden --no grass at the rate were going.  Lol

I'm kind of upset about the Hydrangeas --I had thought to tell him not to mess with them but forgot.  I will miss all of those beautiful flowers this summer.  

Normally, I cut the Hydrangeas back to the ground in fall and did fairly well with the flowers.  Thought I would try not cutting back to see if I got more flowers., but I won't know now --thanks to hubby.

I planted a Magnolia Jane tree 4 summers ago.  Its around 5 feet tall now and there must be 200 flowers on there getting ready to open.  One of my wiser investments.  Although, they do look a little strange with the flowers and no leaves.  I never trim the branches because I read you will lose blooms in doing so.

I planted 2 Purity Japanese Pieris last spring and they did well but I did not remove the spent flowers.  Should I remove them now or is it too late?  Looks pretty the way it is but I would like some brighter flowers this spring or summer.

Avatar universal
Yes its very hard to watch spring and summer pass by.  Did not get spring fever this year.    Whats the sense of it?  Well we will be twice as excited next spring.
717272 tn?1277590780
I'm still online but got lost on the other forum.  I live in the deep south.  Almost hate to tell you this but our peonies are finishing now and all the flowering trees are done.  May will be nice but a little warm, June will be quite warm and July-Sept. will be pure hell.  But you can't believe the things we grow here: gardenias, camellias, gingers, tropical bulbs.  You would have to have rain lilies in a pot but they'd be worth it.  Summer rain pops them into bloom the very next day.  Very cool.  We grow vegetables year round; cole crops, greens & roots in the winter.

I did not even know you could grow mophead hydrangeas that far north.  Husbands: you can't yell at them because you're so grateful to have any gardening help at all.  I used to be stuck with the mowing but then we got a zero turn mower and he can't wait to get out there.  Has knocked over trees & crushed things but I don't complain.  Better him out there than me.

I have Jane; I think it's the best of the 'Little Girls'.  Another of that type I have at the office is called 'Galaxy'; HUGE flowers.  I also have the white star magnolia (it's a little earlier). My latest obsession is yellow magnolias.  Okay, so they are only a little yellow but I waited so long for blooms that I'm thrilled with them.

I have a pieris and never remove the old flowers. you could if you don't want to look at them, but they won't slow down any growth or anything like that.  It's possible that they behave differently up there.  Can you see the new buds?  seems like they come along not too long after the magnolia blooms.
475300 tn?1312423126
I am jealous, LOL.  Could you snap a few shots of some of your tropicals & load them on your page?  I am interested in the rain lillies.  I love lillies.

I remember seeing hedges of Ficus when I was in Florida, I am lucky to keep those alive in my house over the winter.  

I do all the flower bed / garden work around here.  Ken / hubby gets so mad when people comment how pretty the flowers are and say nothing about all the work he has done.  Hubby says I don't cut the grass right so he does it, about 2 acres of it.  There is about 8 acres that we bale for the horses.

717272 tn?1277590780
Photos are loaded on my page, mostly bulbs, on the hep C site.  I spent the whole morning in the garden pulling invading vinca out of the monkey grass groundcover.  I must be feeling a lot better.  I've been in treatment 5 1/2 mos. and my blood has crashed and crashed, so when everyone else went to 4 wk visits, I was still seen weekly for labs.  Maybe it's finally stabilized, hope so.

My husband mows with the zero-turn (ridiculous monster for a town lot) but I don't think I could let him help in the beds.  I don't ever hire help because I'm afraid they'd weed out all the good stuff.

Didn't mean to incite jealousy (or maybe I did).  You can grow huge peonies, lilacs & 7' delphiniums.  It's all a trade-off.
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