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temecula_gardener

Clay Soil on a Steep Slope

15 years ago

My most recent project was to remove the grass (fescue) in a portion of my front yard and replace with drought tolerant ground cover. The grass was planted 20 years ago when we moved into this tract home and had become patchy and ugly. We're trying to get away from having to water so much. As I started shoveling, I discovered the first problem-the trees in the front (large Camphor, patio sized pear, some unidentified tree + neighbor's Cypress) had invaded the area, intertwining their small, medium and large roots with the grass, sucking up all the water. I spent days chopping and digging out all the roots only to find the second problem about 18 inches down-a solid clay base that is dry and impenetrable. Not much I could do about that so I amended what soil was left and planted the ground cover. Now for my next project...the steep slope behind my house. When they built this tract of homes in this hilly area, they made some lots at the top and then leveled some hills and made other lots at the bottom. We at the bottom got the slopes. When we moved in, they sprayed seed including Gazanias, Sea Lavender and Poppies. Gazanias remain and a few Sea Lavender but they are time consuming as we have to go back and replant the empty spots yearly. If you picture the slope as one large rectangle tilted, and divide into thirds, the left third is a mix of gazanias and ivy that has crawled over/under my neighbor's fence, the right third is my experiment with native Salvia which has done wonderfully (I discovered a great nursery about 30 minutes away that carries native plants and picked up some sage plants last year) and the middle is hard clay with a few scraggly gazanias here and there. I want to add more salvia to this middle. I have tried using a shovel and a pick ax to loosen it up enough to dig down far enough to mix in some organic compost but can't get further than 2 inches or so. The experimental side was easier for some reason. Any suggestions? And remember, water just runs off.

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