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Q.Garden Hell: 50% Rocks 50% Red Clay

Zone Black Mountain, NC 28711 | Anonymous added on June 16, 2023 | Answered

I moved to Western North Carolina mountains and rented a place which I eventually bought. Now I am looking closely at what was planted, all dead or dwarfed, burned or eaten and figure on doing it better. It is Northern exposure with only 2hrs of sun per day before it jumps the roof and goes to the back of the house. The soil is red clay and the developers, to save money buried all their rock waste in the gardens 50:50 so its like a concrete aggregate sidewalk. I ripped off the fabric, removed the dead bushes with their tiny roots and proceeded to try to remove the rocks. I got through one 13×4 plot and removed 1200 pounds of rocks in the first 6 inches of soil. Neighbors said I should have left it alone and just put topsoil on top of it, but I wanted to remove the problem, add peat moss and rebuild healthy soil, not bury a problem. I intend to plant native low light perennials like Astilbe, Heuchera, and Hosta. People tell me they would have grown in the rocks, but I couldn’t even get a shovel into the dirt to plant them. Am I on the right track? Any suggestions?

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Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on June 19, 2023

If you are able to easily remove the rock, that is the best solution. Sometimes it is very difficult and is easier just to add soil on top as was suggested. But if not enough soil is added on top, the plant's roots have to deal with the rock. Creating raised beds are another option. Here is more:


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