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Buying an old house, the yard is a mess

Posted by BrownThumb412 none (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 30, 14 at 20:12

So, I am in the process of buying an old home. It is a 50'x100' lot. There are 8 pine trees, 40-60+ feet. The pines have to go! The little bit of grass that is growing is sparse and brown.
I am having visions of lush grass, hydrangeas, roses, berry bushes, Japanese Maples, dwarf fruit trees, and lots of raised beds. I am hoping this isn't too far off in my future.
Where do I start once the pine trees are gone? I have always been a gardener in spirit, but not yet in practice.
The tree removal company suggested tilling the whole lot with lime, then adding a couple inches of top soil. I've read that might not be the best way to go, but I really have no idea! I will be getting a soil test done as soon as it's for certain that I'll be getting the house.

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RE: Buying an old house, the yard is a mess

Start with the soil test before allowing any lime to touch the soil. Liming when you don't need it is a very bad thing.

You've named a few plants that aren't compatible with each other pH-wise (many berry bushes like acidic while grass, maples, and most flowers prefer nearer to neutral). Your plan might require a little modification. Or, if you prefer, you can simply plan to do more work to hold pH zones in your soil.

I refuse to do that and use heavy organic feeding and high levels of organic material to make pH matter less. My rhododendron (very acidic) is perfectly happy in the same bed as my Impatiens (neutral), marigold (slightly acidic) and salvia (slightly acidic). Managing that can take time, but it can be done--managing light levels for the above plants is more difficult at this point!

Once the trees are out, evaluate the soil and see if it's reasonably flat. If not, a good landscape company with a box blade can be used to level it out.

If you can avoid bringing in top soil for the general property, so much the better. One, it's probably going to had a different profile than your existing soil which will tend to cause roots to bunch up in one section or the other. Two, it's going to differ chemically and that presents a challenge.

However, if you want to put in raised beds for plants, go for it. Add topsoil at will. Generally you've got a wide enough margin of soil that your plant's roots won't mind--or you can mix the two at the interface when putting the plants in. That was true with mine and although it does take a while for the interfaces to settle and the soils to mix well, it does happen.

Gardens are much easier to keep watered when necessary and we tend to separate plants appropriately, so a little root binding isn't going to be an issue.

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