planning a new vegetable garden... on gravel and grass

rmawhorter(4a Hazelton, BC)April 20, 2011

Hi all,

We're about to move into a new property and I would like to get in a vegetable garden right away. The property is mostly gravel and rock but at the front of the property is a pathetic, over grown lawn that has become almost entirely quack grass (no one has lived on the property for about 4 years). The soil goes about 3 inches down before it hits gravel/sand. What I'm tentatively planning to do is to lay down newspaper and have a load of aged manure brought to the property to have laid down on top of the newspaper so that it'll be about a foot thick. I haven't planned to roto-till the grass because of the gravel being so close to the surface. Does this sound like a decent plan or does it sound destined to failure?

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The Vegetable Forum and Compost & Mulch Forum have a lot of discussions and strong opinions related to this question. "Failure" is a relative term depending on alternatives such as expectations for degree of success and whether the alternative would be no garden at all, so I have had adequate success in getting enough yield from similar approaches, on a small scale, to make it worth the alternative of no veggies at all. Planting in "only" manure or compost ( manure has to be essentially aged into compost, I guess, or it would burn/digest your seeds and plants) has some limitations re; what types of crops work better, or not, but I expect you can get some advice on that. Remember that materials you describe spread a foot thick will be about 6 in thick or less before long, but again, you could factor that in.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Hi rmawhorter,

I'm not super experienced or a landscape designer but your post got my eye because we are in a similar situation. My new house (ok, 2 years new) has a perfect spot for planting, in terms of sun and southern exposure, but it is an area that is all pea gravel, to a depth of 6 inches at least.

We built raised beds - 18 inches high (I want to grow potatoes and carrots or I would have just made them 12 inches) by 3'X3' and I just dropped them on the gravel, with a layer of newspaper underneath. But first I hoed out the weeds; and weeds were a good thing really. I know that the soil under the gravel has *some* fertility because weeds were growing there all on their own!

You suggest getting a load of manure, but you don't want manure if you hope to plant your vegetable garden this year; manure will burn your plants and if you are lucky enough to manage lots of leafy green growth from the nitrogen, you'll end up with almost no flowering.

Instead call (or google) around to your local compost dealers and find a blend of compost and topsoil that is recommended for raised beds. Locally here in northern CA I bought enough for my 4 beds for $120 and then bought 4 bags of really rich compost to blend in just for good measure.

I hope this is helpful, good luck!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 2:58AM
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