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lindakimy

I could use some advice (sorry, kinda long)

lindakimy
16 years ago

Y'all seem to be really smart here about growing things and I could sure use some smart advice. Here's the story...

My husband and I moved out to a rural property about a year and a half ago. It's 5 acres, mostly heavily wooded. The hope is that we will live long enough to clear a pasture so dh can bring his horse over from where she boards with friends. We have stock fenced the front 3 something acres but the fence is along the property line and there is woods all around so that from the house you can't see it. Or the road. Or any neighbors. Yep. LOVE that.

So. Early on I used some landscape timbers and concrete blocks that were here to put up a low boundary between the "wild woods" and the yard. It's only a visual border - wouldn't keep anything out. But it sort of defines the front edge of what I'd like to make into a cottage garden border. There is 1)house; 2)yard (centipede); 3)flower border; 4)timber boundary; 5)heavy woods. Does that make sense? And the border is about 175 feet long. WHEW! That's a lotta plants! But at least the late day sun is mostly/partially blocked from the border by the woods. This very long bed faces east.

O.K. Our "soil" here is sand and acid. Pure sand for the most part. I love it on my blinding white SC winding driveway that disappears through the woods to the road. But for growing things it is not really all that hospitable. I have amended (probably not nearly enough) with the more or less composted cleanings from a horse farm nearby - straw and poop and whatnot. And I added a whole lot of composted cow manure last year. I've put in LOTS of plants (mostly perennials because that's what interests me most) that I've tried to limit to those that don't require too much in terms of fertility and water and, while they are surviving, they are not what I'd call thriving. Well, no wonder. It's HOT here and the ground is like Hell's Sandbox. It doesn't rain enough (I try to hit the balance between watering and making the well go dry) and I work full time so I'm not out there giving things as much attention as I would dearly love to do.

So here's where the advice comes in:

1)What do you recommend to help these blessed plants do better? Fertilizing? Side dressing? There don't seem to be many pests (boy, that's a silver lining!) although I did fight the bugs on my Knockout roses this spring. I'd prefer not to use a lot of chemicals but if push comes to shove, I'll do it.

2)Are there any plants that will just grow like a striped ape to fill in the gaps in this so-called border? I'd love to see something white in drifts to close up the bare spots. Am I dreamin'? It would have to thrive in poor soil, hot conditions, and limited water. The one thing we have got is GOOD DRAINAGE. Do we ever!

Any advice would be welcomed. And thanks in advance!

Comments (55)

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Wow! Thanks, y'all! This is exactly the kind of input I need. Adele, I had to laugh...my husband calls our place "80 mile beach" because it's 80 miles inland but you would swear this white sand should be on the shore. We are pretty much smack dab in the middle of SC, on a fairly high spot (well for this area that doesn't really have hills). Our temperatures tend to be about 8 degrees higher in summer and lower in winter than those shown on the Columbia tv weather reports. As if this area were not extreme enough already!

    We seem to be having problems with our well, too, and plan to get a much deeper one dug asap. There has been way too much building and settling out our way. Even though the property along our mile-long road is restricted to 5 acre parcels (per house), at least 3 new houses have been built in just the time we have lived here. And, of course, we are about 9 inches behind in rainfall for the year so far. Now our well is showing pressure that is too low and irregular. Ominous, to say the least. I'd like to look into that drip system but probably not til the well issue is resolved.

    Yes, I do mulch - a lot. Otherwise, all the plants would be horizontal. And yes, that supply of horse barn clean-out is never ending (and free!). A question about that...when we get it, it's pretty raw - just shoveled out of the stalls so it's full of straw, horse apples, etc. We've tried leaving it in piles to age and we've also just tilled it in, as is, in some areas. I can't really tell much difference (except that it's greener where those piles were). Any opinions about the best way to handle that stuff?

    Oh, and the decision about oenethera was made before I arrived. One flower bed next to the front porch has some. So far it is staying put there and I do enjoy the way the flowers look but even that plant is kinda sparce and straggly.

    So far salvia hasn't really done that well - it survives but after one modest flush of bloom, it's done. I haven't tried penstemon but will definitely put it on my list. In fact, I'm going to research it and see what I can learn about types, etc. Thanks for the tip!

    Sounds like there will probably be lots of digging in my future - "re-amending" this sand box.

    Thanks for your suggestions - I'm glad to get 'em!

  • mrsboomernc
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    i have a similar lengthy, east-facing border along woods edge - i don't have the sand issue, but the border's been amended with tons (literally) of leaf compost, pine fines etc. i had originally envisioned this to be a perennial border, and proceeded with that plan for about 5 years. given the constant encroachment of tree roots into this great amended soil, it was nearly impossible to keep perennial plants happily watered. i had scattered some evergreen & deciduous flowering shrubs in this border and noticed they fared much, much better in the competition with the tree roots than did perennial flowers/plants. with the exception of one manageable 30' length of this border that is planted with perennials only, i've converted all of it into a shrub border of camellias, conifers, and flowering shrubs - with a few not-too-demanding perennials like garden phlox thrown in here and there in the very front of the border closest to the house. from a visual standpoint, the large shrubs provide a more substantial transition between the yard and the woods.

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  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Good point! I hadn't really thought about the reaction of the trees to a banquet nearby.

    I like the idea of the shrubs as a good transition and I actually have several in this border already: a couple of forsythia, two saucer magnolias that appear to have no ambition to become more than shrubs, a really lovely old fashioned mock orange that responded wonderfully this spring to having some overhanging oak and persimmon branches removed for light and air. There are also several roses that are doing as well as anything else out there: a couple of tea roses left by the previous owner (I wouldn't have put those in but haven't had the heart to rip them out either), a couple of Knockouts I just had to try, and a Sombreuil that is growing up onto the roof of a rustic wooden covered swing across from the front porch. I also put in 3 new crape myrtles last year - not actually part of the border but at the end of the long lawn.

    I especially like the idea of evergreens, for winter interest as much as contrast in the border (and filling some space in a different way). Are there any you would especially recommend?

  • dirtysc8
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm in the Midlands of SC, sometimes referred to as the sandhills area. As if the soil weren't already impoverished, builders carted off all the good stuff when they built the subdivision.

    To me, the toughest part of gardening in sandy soil is that the combination of heat and humidity makes soil amendments dissolve like melting snow. I dig in LOTS of mushroom compost and then mulch with shredded pine bark. I've also used the sometimes controversial county compost which is the cheapest amendment and excellent for adding tilth, although not as good as mushroom compost for holding moisture. Right now there are bags and bags of shredded leaves tucked behind some large shrubs breaking down because leaf mold seems like a perfect amendment as well. But after all is said and done, I'm not sure we can ever make sandy soil not be sandy soil -- just better.

    I've learned that the "infrequent but deep" watering universally advised doesn't apply to those of us with sandy soil. Frequent but shallow is more like it. We use soaker hoses and sprinklers often. Some of my neighbors have sunk wells out here, and once we can afford to, really want to do the same.

    I try to look on the bright side: it's certainly easy to dig in our soil!

    About plant selections: please try Salvia again. I've found Salvia farinacea very good, especially after its first year. Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' as well as 'Argentina Skies' are both excellent sub-shrubs. Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red' and sedums do well for me. Surprisingly, I've also got some moisture-lovers like cannas, brugmansia, and physostegia (the variegated one) growing well, but I amended the planting holes like crazy after lining the holes with a several layers of wet newspaper. (A friend suggested recently lining the planting holes with cheap diapers after soaking them long enough to remove the coverings, exposing the water-holding gel.) 'Becky' shasta daisy and 'Goldsturm' rudbeckia may seem like clich, but they're also doing well. It goes without saying that lantana loves our soil. Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis' gets about 6' by 6' and blooms from April through November without the need for any spraying. The blossoms are plentiful but not large and like most China roses, change colors from buff to crimson with all the colors on the bush at once. We're giving ours lots of water right now because we transplanted it a couple of months ago, but it is usually rather drought tolerant.

    Of course no plant is drought tolerant until it's well established. I nearly despaired of ever getting my Stokesias settled in, but then I planted them in full sun with the street on one side, the driveway on another, and on the third side, the sidewalk. They're finally lovely now, and the foliage is evergreen. Once their blue blooms are finished, I have annual vinca interplanted in the bed to carry on the color. I wintersow my seed-grown plants and have discovered many wildflowers like California poppies, Shirley poppies, Mexican sunflower, castor bean, verbena, species petunias, yarrow, Sweet Williams, to name a few, do very well here.

    Sorry, kinda long...

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Marsha's post about the trees and shrubs is an excellent idea. I have seen her work in progress and look forward to seeing how her camellias are doing. Coneflower and rudbeckia in front would be wonderful and they are very easy to winter or summer sow. Lots of bang for the buck.

    Growing in sand though I would stress that any tree or shrub be planted in the fall. I lost every shrub that I planted last spring but the ones that were planted in the fall are doing just fine. Adele

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    So far I've had NO luck with rudbeckia or coneflower. I brought some of both with from the last place I lived - over in Columbia in a bog - boy, was that different! We had about 4 springs on the place and it was NEVER dry. It was sandy but had kaolin and LOTS of water from below. Anyway, we dug up a BUNCH of black eyed susies and coneflowers but none really made it. I guess it was just too big an adjustment. So I've bought new ones this year and so far they are reasonable but not what I'd call "eager".

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think the trick with growing perennials in sand is to get them to survive their first year. I plant mostly drought tolerant plants. That being said until they are established you can lose even them if they don't get watered in enough. In Pittsburgh I always tried to do my big planting in the fall just to get that extra season of root growth. I have found in the sand that this is even more important. You will be able to get plants established without battling the heat and lack of rain. Try summer sowing some rudbeckia and coneflower in small containers to plant out in the fall. I did this last summer and planted them in pretty much unamended sand. Only watered them a couple of times. They are doing great this summer.

    I was walking around my gardens this morning so that it would jog my memory as to what did well that first year.
    I remembered that achillia did very well with just that first amending as well as agastache (the old fashioned kind that they refer to as hyssop).

    Oh and I just remembered that first fall I planted a wildflower mix from wildseedfarms.com in tilled sand, no amendments. It was a mix of poppys, dianthus, gallardia, etc. Color from spring till late summer. I never watered this area and we were in a drought so that says alot.

    Looking around my gardens in the late afternoon in 90 degree weather today I see that my malvas are all flopping, as well as black and blue salvia. My hot lips salvia on the other hand isn't bothered by heat or lack of rain and makes a nice shrub in one season. I also noticed all the penstemens looked as happy as can be. They are blooming in various colors and styles all over my front beds. Adele

  • tietie
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've lived in South Fl and in TX. They had 67 days in a row of triple digit temps the first year I lived there! I would look to those areas for guidance. Things that grow well in hot sand in FL will probably grow well for you. Texas A & M might be a resource to look toward for drought tolerant plants. They choose one plant each year to be named a 'Texas All-Star'. I had really good luck with 'Laura Bush' petunias. Never watered them, even through the drought and they bloomed, even reseeded some. Haven't seen them around here, but they looked alot like those wave petunias. I'd also try lantana, it thrives on neglect and so does confederate jasmine. What about ornamental grasses? Pink muhly grows well at my sisters in FL in sand with no supplemental watering. Wish I could come up with some more but most of what comes to mind would be an annual here.

    Good luck!
    Tanya

    ps. if the fresh stable cleanings seem to be greening things up, then I'd keep using it hot. Sounds like the plants are enjoying the fertilizer.

  • Blooming_annie
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Look on the bright side...at least sand is easy to dig! I can stick a hand trowel down to the handle with just light pressure in my sandy yard. But it is a challenge to find which plants work and how to get them to thrive. Most of this has been said above but this is what I've found on the coast in a zone 8B/9A:

    - Amend like crazy! I use lots of live oak leaves, manure when I get my shovel on it, coffee grounds, etc. and just pile it all in areas where I want future beds. I use the live oak leaves as mulch too as it breaks down quickly and is easy to turn into the soil.

    - As "dirty" said above it is better to water frequently and shallowly since the sand doesn't retain the water anyway.

    - Annuals and perennials that work for me are rosemary, Spanish lavender, Indigo Spires salvia (I LOVE this plant! Great deep blue color, large, doesn't have to be deadheaded.), cape plumbago (not sure if that is hardy for you but grows quickly from a very small plant in summer heat), cupheas, tithonia, profusion zinnias, some daylilies, gomphrena, pentas, ornamental peppers, Hawaii series of ageratum, lantana, santolina, russian sage. There are others but they aren't coming to me right now!

    - I'm thinking of planting a tree to give that area some light shade. Six hours of sun a day is enough for most plants and that area of my yard basically gets 12+ hours in the peak of summer so a little sun relief probably wouldn't hurt.

    - And definitely keep adding shrubs.

    Good luck and happy gardening!

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks for the ideas, everybody. I really appreciate them all.

    You are right about sand being easy to dig. But it is hard to keep the stuff from falling right back down in the hole long enough to put a plant in! Oh well, I used to garden in red clay in GA and in hard adobe in CA so I do value being able to dig easily.

    Right now my biggest problem is that our well is going dry. It's already low enough that we can't take showers or do laundry. You can imagine how far down the list watering the flowerbeds falls! And, just for the sake of irony I guess, my favorite nursery has chosen today for a special stock reduction sale - perennials for $1.50 and $2.50...flats of annuals for $4.50. ARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGG!!! I could SO fill in blank spots in that border! But I hesitate to bring home more plants that I don't have water to sustain.

    It did rain last night, though, and I put out every barrel and container I could find (they are all full) so I'll be able to hand water next week when it heats back up.

    Gardening - who knew it could be so stressful!!

  • dirtysc8
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The other morning when I discovered deer had eaten every single daylily bud I discovered some of that stress, lindakimy. Sure hope your well situation gets corrected quickly.

    tietie, Wildseed Farms sells seeds of 'Laura Bush' petunias. They winter sow very well.

    dellare, my 'Black and Blue' Salvia doesn't droop. Is this perhaps your first or second year with it? I also have 'Argentine Skies', another Salvia guaranitica cultivar, which did droop just a bit when the heat first started staying in the '90's. I gave it a little water then, but usually neither Salvia requires supplemental water.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Wildseed Farms

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, it should come as absolutely NO surprise...I was unable to stay away from that plant sale. Hey, I'll buy bottled water if I have to. I simply could NOT resist. And here's what I got (gorgeous plants all!) Black and blue salvia (oooooo...that's pretty!), several Indigo Spires salvias (the freshest looking plants in the sale), several rudbeckias (I WILL NOT BE DENIED!), a couple of Silver Mound lantanas, a shasta daisy that begged for a home, two lovely variegated white gauras (I just love gaura!), and a little sedum who looked like it needed a Mommy. What can I say...plants excite me. Except for the sedum these were all gallon size containers and very healthy looking plants and the whole trunkful cost me $34 tax included. How could I resist? Besides...I think I have fallen in love with the black and blue. I wasn't crazy about it when I first saw pictures online (yes, it did look a little "goth") but now - that blue! That tall, sturdy foliage. Yep, it's love.

    dellare, I was rereading and noticed again what you said about putting plants in containers til fall. I think I may do that with some (or all?) of these because it should be more economical to water them that way. Any recommendations about the soil mix to plant them in? Or varieties you don't recommend for this treatment?

    And I've just got to learn something about winter sowing. I've never done very well with seeds but the idea of gardening year round again (I remember California fondly) is too appealing. I feel as if I'm in gardening prison for half the year here and by spring I'm like a drug addict falling off the wagon when I see all the new plants for sale. LOL

    BTW, just a positive note - my balloon flowers are going NUTS - they have spread out and are blooming like it was a competition. And every one of my Stokesia divisions is blooming like crazy. And I was worried about that because I divided them a bit late. Ahhhhh...there are some victories!

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Linda, I'm glad you are having some victories. Gardening in sand is a rude awakening after gardening in clay all your life, but it is doable. I feel your pain about the well. First summer here after I ran the well dry for the last time and we were waiting for the new one to be drilled I didn't take a shower for a week ha. When my SO mentioned something I just said "look I am not wasting good water on myself, I have plants to keep alive and how ever many showers I skip the more plants I can save".

    dirtysc8 you were right about my black and blue salvia it is in its second year. Actually first year if you count that it was dug up last year when I reamended all my beds.

    As for the shallow watering. The first year of gardening here I had to do it out of necessity since I kept running the well dry. When I redid the beds though I was shocked to see that nothing had roots down further than a couple of inches. They all ran the length of the beds and I was frantic that nothing would survive the transplant. Now that I have a new well and beds that have been amended again I make sure to water an inch a week to every bed if we don't get any rain. I really don't know which is better though but the shallow roots were worrying me. I will be curious to see when I finally starting dividing stuff if the roots are going down instead of right on the surface.

    Keep us posted. I love to hear from other people gardening in sand.

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "Keep us posted. I love to hear from other people gardening in sand." Oh, I'll definitely do that! I need advice from y'all! You know stuff! LOL

    I've just got to be hopeful about this well situation since I came home Friday evening and dh had a new well digger out here who gave him a better price. Dh told him to go ahead and schedule. And then I got home from work just as it started raining...and in the mail were a couple of checks that added up to exactly the amount of the estimated well cost. Spooky, huh?

  • junequilt
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Welcome to the SC sandhills! I've lived on the high, dry pure sand south of Columbia for 15 years and I recognize all the characteristics you're talking about, including the blinding white sand driveway. I figure we've got to be neighbors, or close to it. Gardening here is a challenge, but not impossible.

    Here's one of my success stories, and it took me 14 years to get around to it. Duh! Last summer I decided to try the Ruth Stout system of gardening using hay as a mulch. I bought a round bale of feed-quality hay and started mulching everything with it. This looked somewhat odd but worked wonderfully. The hay not only mulched but fed all my plants. They loved it! This spring I decided to see what would happen if I put chopped leaves on top of the leftover hay mulch. All I can say is, my cup runneth over! The chopped leaves (mostly pin oak from the scrub trees in the neighboring timber tract) look ever so much nicer than the hay, and together they are doing a dynamite job of making my plants happier than I ever thought possible.

    I also compost like crazy and raise redworms for their bedding, which I harvest once a year. I dig lots of composted organic matter into the sand in when I plant anything. I don't use fresh manure because I've found that the salts present in fresh animal waste can actually stunt plant growth, and this may have something to do with the pH of our environment.

    Speaking of which, you might consider having your water tested for pH once your new well is in. Our well water is very acidic -- a reflection of the environment -- and it tends to put nutrients in solution and wash them away before the plant can uptake them, much as with acid rain. So we collect and use all the rainwater we can. You'll notice a distinct difference between the use of rainwater and well water if your well water is anything like ours. The well will keep plants alive, but it doesn't make them flourish like Mother Nature's precipitation!

    Btw, do you like hummingbirds? Navajo red salvia is threatening to take over my garden and the little hummers love it!

    Happy gardening!

  • dirtysc8
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    junequilt, it's interesting that in Northwest Columbia, there is red clay, but in the Northeast (where I am) and south of Columbia, we have sand.

    Another super plant for sandy soil and hummingbirds is Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundiflora 'Torch'). I thought mine had no chance of surviving all my digging and amending the beds in my back yard -- not to mention building a 4' by 12' berm -- but last night I discovered a tidy little row of seedlings along the property line! I've got to go and transplant those fellas before my neighbor mows them down...

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Junequilt, maybe that is part of my problem - that stunting on account of the ph. I was out this evening checking things and I thought, "You know, it's like I've got all these miniature plants!" And I HAVE noticed that no matter how much I water, the plants really respond so much better to rain. It just makes them happier.

    I did save as much rain water as I could this past weekend because, without that, I won't be able to water anything. I'm hoping the plants will appreciate it.

    About my sand driveway...(sniff) It may not be long for this world. Dh wants to cover it with gravel because it tends to wash out when it rains heavily. I hate the idea but I do see the logic. Why must aesthetics always give way to practicality?

  • dirtysc8
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'd much prefer gravel to my cement driveway. Especially if you have a say in what color of gravel~

  • junequilt
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    dirtysc8, WHERE did you find tithonia seeds? I've been looking all over for them!

    There are times when I envy the folks who garden in red clay. That's all we had where I grew up in NJ.

    However, the sandhills is a fascinating ecology. It runs from Georgia in a kind of diagonal line all the way up to coastal North Carolina, and in some places is only a couple of miles wide! My understanding is that about 80 million years ago, the Atlantic Ocean covered all of South Carolina up to this point, and for millennia the sandhills were, in fact, the beach! If you ever get the chance to visit the Aiken County Historical Museum you'll find a nice exhibit regarding the sandhills. I live in what's called the longleaf pine uplands, where there's virtually no soil, the sand is about 80" deep, and vegetation is sparse. The longleaf pine tree is king here, with understory of gnarly pin oak and a couple of very tough native shrubs. That's probably more than anyone wanted to know about the sandhills, but I love it here and am always willing to talk poor, unsuspecting gardeners to death about it!

    lindakimy, I feel your pain about the driveway. Mine was covered some years ago with crush & run, but I live on the edge of a timber tract and when I walk my dogs at night, moonlight reflects off the white sand of the firebreaks. I also live on a dirt road which turns into a washboard when it rains! And you're right about the stunting. Things just don't thrive unless it rains. Years ago when I had a small patch, I used to add a pinch of lime to every watering can full of well water and that seemed to help. But now I have too much garden for that!

  • betsyconnolly
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I was once told if you have clay or sand don't even stick a trowel in it. Put in five to six inches of pine bark mulch
    and plant in the mulch. Guess what - it worked wonderfully.I planted alot of pass along plants which can hold up to our weather. These plants have to be weeded back into their original spots but I can do that. Crocosmia, mexican petunias, lemon balm, monarda, primroses,
    spicer plants, obediant (very invasive) plant, queen annes lace, verbena, gaura and many others fill my beds to over flowing. I am on the coast of NC. Very Hot, Very Humid.

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Interesting but how does that work with water? Does the mulch stay damp a while or does it have to be constantly watered?

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    O.K. I'm really depressed right now because our well has dried up (I can't even take a shower and I really, really need one after mulching another bed this morning) and I can't water anything. All my precious plants are dying. And I just can't stand it.

    This flower gardening is my only joy...the only distraction I have from a stupid job and housework.

    So...it was 105 or 109 today depending on which of my thermometers you would like to believe. No rain in sight.

    Is this gardening or a wake?

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Linda
    I can still remember that familiar sputter the sprinkler made the last time our well went dry. I remember thinking ah oh...I'm in big trouble.

    Actually it was a blessing in disguise. We really needed a new well and were putting it off. It was an old hand dug well. It wasn't even cemented. Basically the well was being filled with runoff water. Having a new well drilled was the best money I have ever spent. Your posts sound like mine around this time last year. What are your prospects for the new well. Is there a date set for the drilling. I think we went a week or two before the driller could get to us. While waiting we called for a water buffalo. We filled the well with that water as well as a kiddie pool we purchased from Walmart.

    Don't let this get you down. You can get through this. I know for myself, I had put quite a bit of money into perennials and it was really hard watching them flounder. I can say I didn't lose too much that summer. Most of the perennials survived. The bushes that I planted did not fare so well and I lost a number of them.

    My gardens this year are beautiful and I have added five more beds and I'm planning a couple more.

    You will get through this and be stronger and wiser for it. Lets cross our fingers for some rain. I know that first summer I did my fair share of rain dances as well as shaking my fist at the sky. Adele

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, thank you so much, Adele, for your kind words and encouragement. It really helps.

    We are supposed to be scheduled for a new well. Dh made the deal with the digger on the 2nd and was told it would be about 2 weeks before he could drill our well but he didn't get an actual date. The man was supposed to call back last week but didn't. So, at this point, I don't know whether we are only a week away from plenty of water or waiting for nothing. And my nerves are not handling that very well.

    BTW, what on earth is this water buffalo you called? The kind I'm familiar with provide the milk used to make mozzarella cheese in Italy!

    I'd love to see some pictures of your gardens - that would really give me something to aspire to!

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Linda, You need to call the guy that is supposed to be drilling your well and let him know you are dry and try and get a definate date from him. We had the very same experience and I am sure I had to call him a couple of times just to get him going.

    The "water buffalo" is actually a truck. I think the man works out of the local hardware store. He comes with a big truck and will fill whatever you have. I think it was around seventy dollars to have the well filled and the pool from Walmart (which came in very handy for quick dips to clean up a bit, as well as watering anything that looked on the verge of dying). There should be something like that in your area. Try calling the local hardware store. Around here I think people use the service for filling their pools if they are on a well system.

    I don't know where you are located in South Carolina but it looks like the coast is going to get some rain from that tropical system. Here's hoping.

    I've got lots of pictures of my gardens but havn't uploaded them to any site yet. If I get a chance I will send a link. Adele

  • lynnencfan
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Lindakimy - just read through this thread and of course I agree with all those who say AMEND AMEND AMEND and when you think you are done AMEND some more. Nothing is better than starting out with a good firm base to put your plants into. I also agree with maybe doing some containers with your new plants and them plant them out in the fall when the weather conditions are more favorable.

    As for winter sowing - there is a forum here on the Garden Web forums - it will change your life about gardening and the variety of plants you can grow is amazing and the plants end up stronger and far more adaptable because they are started outside and not 'coddled' in a greenhouse. Read the FAQ's first to get your self aquainted with the concept and then join in on the conversations. Everyone is very helpful with any questions you may have - get in on the seed exchange (there are free packets of seeds for newbies).

    Have fun in your new venture.....

    Lynne

    Here is a link that might be useful: Winter Sow Forum

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Lynne, I just read your "Page" and it about brought tears to my eyes! What a touching story.

    I definitely want to do more amending on this bed - I'm thinking take up the perennials that manage to live through this dry spell and dig deep this fall when it's a bit cooler out there. Then I'd like to replace the "survivors" in better soil and in a somewhat more rational arrangement. So far I've been kind of experimenting to see what would thrive here. Then I want to add lots more of whatever that turns out to be so that there are larger swaths of the same kind of plant. This bed is just so huge and is usually viewed from the porch on the other side of the yard...individual plants don't make much of an impact.

    Is that sort of lifting and replacing best done in the fall? Or when?

    Yes, Adele, we do need to get in touch with that well digger. He has drilled wells for a couple of people where I work so I don't think he is a complete flake and dh did try to impress upon him that this is really NEEDED, not just that we'd like a deeper well. But still...

    I've been watching the weather channel and all that about the tropical storm down in FL. Man. I'd love about 8 inches of rain in the next few days! But it looks like it will miss us. I'm pretty much in the dead center of SC - about 4 miles outside of Elgin. And there seems to be a resident high that sits here and fends off rainfall most of the time. It's been drought for most of the last 6 years. So far, we are about 10 inches behind for this year and it's only June!

    Lynne, the wintersowing intimidates the daylights out of me. I've just never had much luck with seeds. This spring I planted about 6 packets in freshly amended and tilled soil which I then watered almost daily (could explain what happened to the well) and so far I have exactly 3 (count 'em, 3) blooming plants. They look utterly pathetic all alone in those beds - spindly and leggy. And we're talking about cosmos here - aren't they supposed to be super easy? Each of two plants has had precisely 1 blossom. The third plant is a coreopsis that has an amazing 4 flowers on it! I also planted sunflowers next to the lower deck in back - they got about a half inch high and then disappeared completely. Sheesh.

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Seriously Linda, your post could truly be mine this time last year. Though I had wintersown a ton that winter. Mostly annuals that I was going to fill up beds with until I could get the right perennials. You can certainly summer sow plants like rudbeckia and coneflower now. Last summer I did just that and ended up with hundreds of rudbeckia and coneflower that I planted out in the fall when the weather was more accomodating. Winter/summer sowing is truly easy. I use old water jugs cut mostly in half with a knife I stop cutting where the handle is so that I can flip the top to water. I make slits in the bottom so that the water can drain. Fill it with good soil and then sow the seeds. Watering daily is all that they need. When that got big enough to handle I potted them up into small pots until fall. They have been blooming for me for a couple of weeks now and are a staple of my new gardens. Last winter I waited to see what did well in my sand and then wintersowed all that I could of them.

    Oh and I did not mean to imply that your driller was a flake ha. Just that I know the squeaky wheel gets the oil so to speak. I was never rude when I talked to Calvin our driller. I just wanted him to know that I was still out there and out of water ha.

    Last fall is when I did my second amending of the perennial beds which is when I discovered that all their roots ran along the soil no deeper than an inch or so. That time I added more amendment instead of less. I remember my husband saying come on now you don't need to add that much to one bed but I wanted to be safe not sorry. I think I put the mulch on over a foot deep and then tilled it in. Truth be told though I wish I would have added more. Oh well. I will let if go a couple of years and see then if I need to add more. I am going to top dress this fall with more composted pine fines and hopefully not have to redo the beds completely.

    Try going to the winter sowing forum and reading some of the faqs. The people there are lovely, gracious and generous.

    Oh and remember the soil test. I was surprised but not shocked to learn my ph was somewhere around 4.5. The amendment I added of decomposed pine fines had lime added to it as well as "micronutrients". I think that had alot to do with the fact that the annuals that reseeded are doing much better than their "parents". The amaranthus that reseeded from last year are actually big and healthy like I remembered them being in Pittsburgh. I was actually surprised they reseeded since the original ones were so puny. Though something is chewing them up like they did last year. I really should have treated them with something when I first noticed it again this spring but I really hate to use chemicals. Again I will wait and see how they perform and if they get too bad I will use something on next years volunteers.

    I'm afraid I have outtalked you again. Hope you don't mind. Adele

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Don't mind a bit! It's actually a HUGE comfort to think there are other irrational, rabid gardeners out there who think a kind thought about my little drought plagued corner of the earth.

    I have been asking myself why I chose gardening rather than needlepoint (which you can do indoors where it's air conditioned) as a passion. But I feel more chosen than choosing. There is just something about planting living things and caring for them (well, trying anyway) so that they grow and reproduce. It's my one source of peace and calm. (Sorry....I'm getting a bit maudlin here.) And at the moment peace and calm are not really involved in my gardening experience!

    I got out at dusk (when the temp went down to the very high 80s) and remulched a couple of sections of the beds - deeper...in hope of survival. I cannot tell you what my head feels like - hair is soured and feels like plastic...no shower til tomorrow morning so I won't drastically offend at work. YUCK. I can't stand my own self! It gives me a whole new sympathy for street people!

    As for ph...I have only the vaguest concept. I assume that our soil is acid. After all, it's SC and pines are rampant. This is old regrowth woods here on our place - obviously it's been cut down in the past and has regrown in oak, holly, hickory, and pine. Lots of trees about 30-40 feet. It's mostly oak...lots of dogwood, sparkleberry, persimmon, wild grape, passion flower and cactus. Not so much pine actually. I should get a soil test done - I'm just afraid that they will recommend amendments I can't afford. But there must be some reason my plants all seem to take forEVER to get going. Poor little stunted things! Those pine fines you've mentioned...where on earth do you get something like that and (oops) what are we talking about in price?

  • lynnencfan
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Pine fines are also called soil conditioner - you can get them at Lowes probably Home Depot also - around $3.00 - 2cu ft bag - GREAT STUFF - you might also be able to get it by the bulk (truck load) if you look around your local area......

    Lynne

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Linda,

    Your soil test will tell you that you need to add lime I am sure. Lime is not too expensive. I think I spent 300 dollars for the 3 acres I live on. It was about 20-30 bags. People in this area lime their property on a regular basis in the fall or early spring. If you check out this site I am linking you will see that 4.5 ph is considered extremely acid. They don't go any further down than that. Read what it says about availability of nutrients. I would guess that my garden's ph now is near neutral with all the amending. The yard which is vast is probably still very acid since I only did the one application of lime. My centipede grass is pitfull.

    The composted pine fines with added goodies is something that the well inspector told me about. I get it locally from a place here. If I remember correctly they delivered 16 yards for 320 dollars. If you can keep doing your own composting with manure I think your results will be even better than mine.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Soil PH

  • shari1332
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Adele,
    How do you you water your summer sown seed jugs?

    Sorry to hijack Linda but maybe you could try a couple of jugs to boost your confidence in the method. Wintersowing has worked well for me.

    Shari

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Shari, to water the jugs I just used my hose on the spray setting and put the nozzle into the spout of the jug and sprayed them. I watered them daily, usually after work. Once they were potted up I had them in flats with square plastic pots that fit right into the flats. I bought them cheap at Southern States and again I just watered them with the hose on the spray setting. The most time consuming thing was potting them up to the flats but I took it slowly and did a bit when I had extra time on my days off. Adele

  • dirtysc8
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    lindakimy, we live very close to one another -- I'm in northeast Columbia. Let me know if you want to pretend to come see my poor thirsty garden (it's already looking tired!). You could run through my sprinkler or use my shower...

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I would dearly love to see your "poor thirsty garden". And don't they all look tired about now. Every year I am totally dismayed by how MayJuneJuly gets overtaken by AugustSeptember around here. I swear I have a red maple that is already turning red. THAT AIN'T RIGHT!

    I lived in NE Cola til a couple years ago - North Springs? Boy...what a difference! I had just learned to live in a bog and then - WHAM! - I'm out here in the Sahara.

    Running through the sprinkler doesn't sound too bad either.

    Maybe we could email or something. I really would like to see your - at least SOMEWHAT more successful - garden.

  • shari1332
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks Adele. I think I'll try it. I've always super babied seeds sown in the summer- artificially filtered light, bottom watering. Don't have the time for that this year. My pot ghetto is shameful.

  • junequilt
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Has anyone else on the sandhills tried lasagna gardening? I've had great success with that technique.

    I'm so thankful for the rain! We had about 2" yesterday. Of course, I'd rather have it slowly over a period of a week or two, but I'll give thanks for it however it comes!

    We had to get a new well drilled about a year and a half ago because lightning struck the old one, although we didn't find out about it until several weeks after the strike when the well piping shattered and collapsed in on itself. And living with a well has its amusing facets -- like a power failure when you're in the shower! :)

    I'll have to check out the winter sowing forum. Very early this past spring I threw a bunch of different seeds out to see what would happen, and guess what? Nothing happened. Not one single seed germinated. However, I suspect the place where I sowed them had something to do with that, because it was basically unamended sand.

    I, too, have had problems with sunflower seedlings disappearing. Currently I have one sulky survivor! It seems to be a little happier, though, since I sprinkled a littl blood meal around it a week ago.

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, we were almost missed by the rain last night. When I left Camden at 5 it was pouring down but by the time I got home our road was still dusty. We only got a light shower. I sure hope more will follow - and actually fall on my place this time!

  • tamelask
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    i don't think the leftovers from alberto can avoid your place. it looks like it's supposed to soak ga, sc & nc, starting tonigh. we've already had some nice soakers from the outer bands. hoping for the best for you! tammy

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Yep, we got a great rain - about 24 hours so far! Mostly nice and easy although there was one really rough part last night that washed out my driveway again. It's enough so that dh said I can wash dishes this evening (oh, rah).

    We found out that our well digger broke his drill and is "a little behind". Hrm....

  • junequilt
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My cucumber seedlings are twice the size they were before the rain! Can't wait to really get a chance to evaluate how the other plants respond.

    lindakimy, I think I'd be looking for another well digger. He isn't be the only game in town! Sharpe's did ours after the old well got struck by lightning, and they were very responsible and considerate.

  • dirtysc8
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    lindakimy, send me an e-mail. (Just click on My Page next to my name).

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Linda,

    I said I would post some pictures when I had a chance. I just did a new blog and thought you might like to see. If you click on the individual pictures you should be able to see them full-sized. Adele

    Here is a link that might be useful: Garden pictures

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    What a comfy, homey place, Adelle!! I'd love to wander around your gardens in the morning with a nice hot cuppa!

  • basil_davis
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    dellare,

    Nice pictures. You done a lot of work in short time.
    Very good change in the front yard and house.

  • dirtysc8
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    dellare, I love your gardens! Especially your planted toilet -- what a hoot! Everything certainly looks lush and healthy, too.

    lindakimy, I never ever succeeded with seeds until I tried winter sowing. Now my problem is getting all the plants into their homes! The one time I tried to pot up my seedlings (and this was in Winter), I lost every single plant. But I can see how it would help with summer sowing, which I plan to do once these plants get into the ground.

    Okay, junequilt, we want to see some of your photos now!

  • amyflora
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I will never again make fun of you for taking home plants at work. I left a comment on the blog space, but felt I should also express my admiration here, for all the work and beauty. What a transformation! You are a garden superheroine!!! Look, out in the yard...It's Garden Goddess Adele!!!!!!!

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    BTW, Adele...would you explain what you mean by "dropping dirt"? That's a new one on me. Whatever it is sure seems to work for you!

  • dellare
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Linda, dropping dirt is exactly what I do ha. I work for a propogating nursery and we have huge compost piles outside which we are generously allowed to use. I take two big plastic boxes left over from when we moved here and fill them every day with the compost (mostly dirt but lots of interesting stuff comes up in it). I take it home and drop it on the sand until I have the size or shape garden I want. I plant it and eventually I border it with dropped cement. I've made about seven gardens of different sizes doing this. Seriously I could drop the dirt and water it and all kinds of goodies would pop up (along with weeds). I've had datura, viola, spiderwort, hyssop and of course petunias come up in it. Adele

  • lindakimy
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, darn. I was hoping that was something I could do. Since I work for a printer rather than a propogating nursery I guess I'd just have to throw paper out there!

    It sure seems to work well - how very nice that you have that resource!! And know how to use it!

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