Turn an old gravel parking lot into a landscaped area

joeschmoe80(6 (Ohio))March 18, 2014

OK - here's my story. I've been looking to build a new home for a while and have looked at acreage to build on, within an hour of my job in Newark, OH, as my commute has been too much on me (we live in Delaware County near Powell at the moment).

We've possibly located a property in that is just over 12 acres. It has potential, but here's the story:

The property was originally an apple orchard and farmer's market. It was abandoned about a decade ago and split into a few parcels. About half the land sits pretty high up on a little "plateau", the soil here is a decent loamy soil that drains pretty well, but then it slopes way down to a low lying area that is rather poorly drained (most of that part is actually a flood zone). The hillside and higher part of the lot still has the old apple stumps (many that resprouted) and overgrown grass. The lowest lying area (about 2 acs total) is where the little farmer's market, administrative offices (originally the old farmhouse) and parking area was - probably since the fruit trees would have done poorly there. The buildings have been razed, but the gravel parking lot remains.

I can handle most of the property - dig out the stumps, kill off the weeds and grass, and replant. I even have my ideas for plenty of things that can tolerate the wetness of the swampy areas, but here are my concerns about the area where the farmer's market was located in particular:

1. The gravel almost certainly means the pH of the underlying soil is extremely high. I'm not sure I CAN remove it, or if I should (it's probably half an acre+ actually covered with the gravel) but also, the soil is likely to be very compacted. There are also a few gravel paths throughout the property, I assume where tractors and other equipment traveled to harvest and care for the trees.

2. Should I try to have a cultivator in here to loosen up the years of compaction here and along the other gravel roads? It does dry out in summer most of the time, so that would be a good time to work the soil and try to "repair" it before planting water-loving plants there.

Any other ideas?

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I'm not sure you can necessarily make a direct correlation between a graveled area and a high pH of the underlying soil. Doesn't exactly work like that :-) Be sure to test before you make assumptions that may or may not prove correct.

And I'd urge you to locate a copy of Beth Chatto's excellent book, 'Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden' - Amazon, book store. library, etc. This is exactly the situation she was faced with and has managed to turn a somewhat challenging planting situation into a work of art. I am always of the opinion that rather trying to reinvent the situation, work with what you've got - it's far less labor intensive and/or expensive and it simply makes the most sense.

Read the book - it will not only tell you how to manipulate the area into a plantable location but what many plants will thrive there as well.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:57PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I wouldn't assume the soil is alkaline. If the gravel is limestone it might be, but it might be granite as well, which would be more neutral/acidic. I'd do a soil test.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:36AM
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How about oil/gasoline and similar possibly in the gravel-soil since it was a parking lot? Would that be a concern?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:45AM
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Faced with this issue, I would decide first if the gravel was useful to me, or not. If potentially useful, I would get a machine that was capable of scraping it up (more than likely it is/was applied in a reasonably uniform layer) and place it in a single pile for later use. If not useful, I would get rid of it as surely it would become in the way later. Depending on how clean it is, it may be saleable, or give-awayable. Someone else with machinery might even be interested in scraping it up for you if they can have it.

I would not worry about if something could be grown where it used to be as there is always something that can be grown everywhere and gravel isn't necessarily known for its herbicidal ability.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 1:39PM
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