Someone asked me how to garden in rocky, sandy soil. Here are a few tips for those of you working such conditions.

  • Rocky soil is difficult to work because it doesn't easily crumble. Plants needs a soft, spongy medium that can both drain and retain water. Rocks do neither.
  • Sandy soil is great because it drains water well. You can make it spongy by adding compost and leaf mold. Over time you can develop a soil that drains excess water during hard rains yet retains enough water for the plants to take up as needed.


Raised Beds
If you're dealing with rocky, sandy soil, I suggest using raised beds. Raised beds allow you to grow entirely above ground using either a soil-based or soilless growing mix.

This allows you to bypass the troubles of dealing with rocky ground. In fact you can "start" with a perfect soil, not having to build it up over the course of years–although you will notice improvement year after year by following a healthy program of adding compost over time.

Build an open box using 2*12 dimensional lumber four feet wide and eight feet long. This will give you 32 square feet, a great size for someone just getting started.

Stella's Mix
Named after my grandmother Estella Dortch, this growing mix is made of what you have on hand or locally available, homage to the way of life grandma lived in rural Wilcox County Alabama.

  1. Growing mixes incorporate materials that drain and absorb water. Draining materials include sand, perlite and vermiculite. Absorbing materials include compost, leaf mold or peat moss.
  2. Mix draining and absorbing materials half and half. You'll need a cubic yard–that's three feet high, long and wide, 27 cubic feet.

With this combination you can bypass rocky ground altogether. If you want to save time, energy and back pain, just use a raised bed in situations were the ground can't easily be preped and worked for production.
Grow'em big,

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