Hardcore landscaping: how to grow a garden on sand, gravel and concrete
The builders’ waste is the ideal foundation for a low-maintenance biodiverse front lawn filled with drought-tolerant grasses, flowers, and fewer plants.
A few years back, I relocated to the terrace of a house in Bristol. It was uninhabited for many years. It was a 1960s-style warp with woodchip wallpaper, brown bathroom flooring, and ceiling tiles made of polystyrene. In the shadow of the pebble-dash facade, the front yard was a patch of grass that contained one sad hydrangea. The grass was atop compacted clay swollen with water in winter and dry as asphalt in the summer, making it hard to cultivate anything except the most robust shrubs.
It’s a myth we require fertile, rich soil to plant our gardens on.
After demolishing the property and adding an extension for the kitchen, I found construction waste scattered throughout my yard and dumped into sacks. Instead of ordering a new skip, I converted my front yard into a rubble garden.
Recycled waste was a big trend at the Chelsea Flowers this time. Sarah Price used reclaimed materials such as old bricks and recycled plastic in her garden inspired by Benton End – However, gardeners have been playing with it for many years. The horticultural instructor and planter James Hitchmough have created beautiful meadows made of crushed concrete in the office of Fidelity International, based in Tonbridge, Kent. It’s a stunning and unique garden. It was this concept that spurred my ideas. I was looking to prevent garbage from being thrown into landfills and create conditions that allowed me to cultivate a fascinating, biodiverse array of plants that required minimal maintenance and would not require irrigation.
It’s a myth that we require fertile, rich soil to plant our gardens. Although this may be essential to cultivate prized dahlias or courgettes, these soils create overwatered plants that must contend with drought and require constant irrigation. They also provide a fertile home for weeds – think of stinging nettles thriving on a nitrogen-rich riverbank – and create a cycle of maintenance-intensive gardening. Moving to grow in sand or gravel can make it easier for weeds to increase and decrease the viability of the ones that can establish.
The less well-improved soils, such as sand rubble or even gravel, provide a fresh path forward for gardens that can meet the climate crisis challenges. You can see shorter, more robust, more durable, drought-tolerant plant species in poor soils. The constant winter rain could be as hazardous as a summer drought for gardening plants, especially our most popular perennials like salvias, achillea, and Echinacea. Along with numerous other plants, they do not like to sit in the moist soil during winter, with their roots soaked. Incorporating new grounds can improve drainage. Sand is a good option; green-roof substrates and gravel could also be used.
I laid 30cm of crushed old sand and plaster over the grass in my front yard while my neighbors watched in awe. I chose naturalistic designs with grasses as the principal elements and various flowers and bulbs. It was planted in the fall and sowed annual seeds like California Poppies, Cornflowers, and Ammi Majus, along with perennials such as salvias, achilleas, such as salvias, Erigeron, and achilleas.
The garden has not been watered and only requires one quick wedding in the autumn.
People asked me what I planned to do in the first winter when I “do my garden.” The path to the garden was an uninspiring grey sea of rubble. But, as spring rolled in, the landscape changed, and waves of bulbs bloomed. Its stony, sandy soil is excellent for alliums and tulips. Similar to their natural habitats in the rocky hillsides of the Middle East.
The plants grow slower in less fertile soils; however, by the time they reached the second year, the garden was full of vibrant and green Sesl eria autumnalis (a grass) and salvias with purple spires and catmint splattered across the pathway. The garden needs to be better watered and only requires an occasional weeding in the fall, and I often introduce new bulbs.
Swedish gardener Peter Korn is one of the most well-known proponents of this kind of garden. After a long time of studying the natural habitats of plants, Korn pioneered a method of cultivating plants using pure sand. Despite the droughts of summer, Korn doesn’t water his plants; Korn’s Malmo landscape is also breathtaking.
Nigel Dunnett, mastermind of planting in Nigel Dunnett, the mastermind behind planting at London Olympic Park and Tower of London Superbloom Nigel Dunnett, has created the rain garden in Sheffield city center. These gardens absorb runoff from the streets, allowing it to soak into the subsoil instead of overburdening the sewers. Dunnett’s central areas resemble the gardens featured at the Chelsea Flower Show, featuring alliums and gorgeous Eremurus flourishing on the top of the.
In the Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex, The proprietor’s Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree recently restored their walled garden to increase the diversity of the wildlife there. Concrete structures on the farm were already being destroyed. This material was crushed into sand, mixed, and then spread across the area with mounds of undulating sand. The complex, rocky soil is ideal for increasing biodiversity since it is difficult for one plant to grow too large and dominate. The garden is just being established; it has been planted with over 800 varieties of plants. The vast array of plants is expected to help support the incredible biodiversity of insects.
The heat of summer radiates from the asphalt surrounding me. However, as I walk into my front yard, the tall grasses dance in the evening sun as pink dianthus pops, and a bee lands on the spikey flower of an electric blue Eryngium.
Is this the next phase for our gardens?
How to make your garden from the rubble
Make use of crushed brick, gravel, or concrete, as well as sharp sand (but be aware that sand used for construction can be too coarse to be used alone and may get waterlogged). Make an effort to reuse materials that you already have.
What and when to plant HTML0?
The autumn months allow your plants to adjust to their new environment. Plants with no roots are ideal because this will enable them to adapt to their new soil and also send out deep roots.
The plants should be given a long soak using a hosepipe before removing them to dry. (If you’re planting in the spring, you should water the plants during the first few months.)
A high planting density is advised – 6 or more plants for every square meter.