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Designing a dry sandy property

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#1 Your Letters

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 06:13 AM

Hi Janet & Steven!

I live on northern end of Holland, MI two blocks off of Lakeshore. Thus soil is sandy. Rumor has it that the couple who sold house to me spend months and many hours trying to create "normal" looking green lawn to sweeten appearance for potential buyers. It was lovely in that traditionally defined way for a moment!

I want to create a magical front and back yard honoring the sandiness and shade. I have big oak trees. Some good morning sun in front of house. Some good late afternoon sun in backyard. Are there resources you recommend for appropriate sand-shade plants etc?

I like the idea of recycling downed branches etc as edging. I want to recycle and reuse what is available in tree filled yards.

Online I found photos of a MI artist's fencing which she painted with big beautiful flowers allowing colorful garden to be seen through 4 seasons.

Do you live anywhere near Holland/Grand Haven?


#2 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 06:41 AM

We're all the way east across the State of Michigan from you, in Waterford, kind of base of the thumb. We are sometimes in your area to visit Walter's Gardens perennial wholesale grower (GREAT display beds), or on our way to friends' places. We've poked around in the sandy areas along Michigan's west shore, and we work in a garden in the northwest Michigan dunes, and in one on the Atlantic dunes. So we appreciate sand, and respect it. As do the people at Walter's who grow more perennials than almost anyone in the world, many of them in 300 acres of very sandy sun of sandy beds under shade cloth. So it's do-able. But it's different.


when the area is excessively drained and nutrient-poor, as many sandy sites are, to grow a lawn or any other dense planting that has to renew its leaf often (because of cutting or fast growth) requires:

1) Continual addition of organic matter to help the soil form crumbs able to hold water. (Continual because organic matter just keeps breaking down, being recycled into the plants)

2) Keeping the growing area moist not with a lot of water applied now and then but little bits of water applied every day. Not 1" per week but 1/4" every couple of days, for instance. Watering heavily on excessively drained soil just means wasting water as the water runs through and down past the root zone so quickly.

3) Small amounts of fertilizer all the time and/or slow release organic fertilizer applied several times a year


In What's Coming Up 110 we honored drought and suggest ways to water that can beat it, and listed the plants that did best in the very droughty summer of 2012 i (Tellima grandiflora and columbine were stellar in the shady sandy garden). You can download that issue from GardenAtoZ.com and read it in full.



Then in What's Coming Up 111 we went further into sandy sites:



We also posted lists of plants for shady dry areas, and design suggestions (including the use of non-plant items and SPACE for interest and color) in the outline and lists from our presentation Difficult Sites, which you can download from GardenAtoZ.com



There's more on our site; if you search dry sand from the GardenAtoZ.com Home page you can see what suits you there.


We're posting your question and our answer on the GardenAtoZ.com Forum so others can give you their suggestions.


Everyone can read here; those who become a Member (it's free but requires your email address and that you establish a password, so we can keep the forum free from hackers) can mark this topic to follow it, and then be automatically notified by email every time someone adds to the discussion.



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