how to plant in pockets of dry stone wall

butterclem(z6 W.PA)June 4, 2007

I want to plant some of the natural pockets in a long (about 20 feet) but short (about 2 feet tall) natural stone wall. The stones are beautiful and huge; they don't have a very tough task maintaining the soil line. They are two stones high about a third of the way and three stones high the rest of the way. They were laid dry and contain no soil layers. How do I go about planting some of the pockets? Should I fill the pocket as deeply as I can with soil, then put the plant in, fill in around it, and try to water from the side (I have a water wand with a mist setting)? I'm making this up! I've never done it. Any tips?

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Try stuffing the holes with long-fiber sphagnum moss; the kind you use in hanging baskets and such. Then stick the plant, with it's soil and rootball into the moss. Keeping them watered will be your biggest issue. The more moss you can get into the crevices, the better it'll hold moisture. I've also seen it done with OASIS® Floral Foam.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 6:38AM
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butterclem(z6 W.PA)

What a great idea! And perennials will winter over this way, with just a little soil around the root ball? This sounds easy and would be a great trick. Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 9:07AM
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I'm guessing, but I'd say this would be the functional equivalent of growing something in a container, meaning you'd lose 2 zones of hardiness being above ground like this. Plants hardy to zone 4 and colder, should be ok. It's also possible the stones will retain enough of the day's warmth to sustain plants.

It also a good way to grow annuals like things which could cascade down the wall.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 10:03AM
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butterclem(z6 W.PA)

You're right, of course. If the perennials don't make it, I could restrict myself to annuals in this particular part of the garden. You've been very helpful. Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 10:14AM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

While I like the peat moss idea, I would still try to get soil in the crevices. Peat moss dries out pretty quickly by itself. I use a good organic top soil (not potting soil). The top soil is heavier and holds together better. If you have trouble with it disappearing into the rocks, incorporate some peat moss along with the soil. You'll have better luck if you use rock garden plants with low water requirements. Do a search on the internet and you'll come up with some ideas. Definitely use the mist setting on your hose because you don't want to wash away all your hard work.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 3:28PM
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butterclem(z6 W.PA)

Thanks, Nancyd. I think this is important enough to be worth an experiment -- plant some with top soil, some with
sphagnum moss, and some with a 50/50 mix. I probably won't write an academic paper, but I could post the results next summer! Thanks to all.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 4:18PM
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sedum37(Z5 MA)

I've used old onion mesh bags or the black weed cloth formed into pockets to hold soil in a rip wrap stone retaining wall. Sedums, sempervirens, etc. love these conditions and can be planted in these pockets quite nicely. You could try putting some of those moisture retaining crystals in the soil too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photos of plantings

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 1:46PM
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butterclem(z6 W.PA)

Thanks for the great tips -- and for the link! Those pictures show exactly the look I want. I have bigger stones and fewer courses, but that's the look. I'm beginning to think the succulents like sedum are going to be easier than some of the campanulas and veronicas I also hoped to include. I'm still going to try Serbian bellflower because I really love it.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:53AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

"I've used old onion mesh bags..."

Yup. I was gonna say I use old stockings, fill 'em with good potting soil then poke a hole where your plant goes. I plant small ferns in my walls this way. Haven't had a problem with things getting root-bound but I suppose big stuff could. Brown or black work best 'cause you're less likely to see 'em.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 12:33PM
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butterclem(z6 W.PA)

What a creative bunch of people! I have lots of ideas to experiment with.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:52PM
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