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compare my backyard to an empty lot or construction site

 
Rich Pasto
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it is mostly bare earth. It faces south and gets little shade. The parts that do get shade during the day we can grow stuff well. But 12+ hours of sun combined with the reflection off the house makes what we call the death zone. Im am thinking that if I plant something like comfrey a few feet off the house in an effort to shade the house and soak up some reflection. Also comfrey (unless you have better suggestions) in some areas, again, in an effort to shade the ground so other things can grow. We have a pear tree that is only 5' so far but doing well. We got some hornbeams, about 10' this winter deeply discounted, and hopefully they are still alive and will help shade the yard this year. I deeply water my yard once a week. twice when it gets over 100. We're willing to water accordingly to start plants. Wondering if anyone uses a plant, grass or anything that can tolerate this kind of solar and thermal abuse. Or another tact that we havent considered. we live in colorado springs. Thanks
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Howdy Rich, I am up south of Denver and have a small area like yours in my back yard. I have added lots of compost to the soil and I have aspens growing about 10 to 15 ft away from the house. They grow fast and have started to shade the area. You might be able to do a hugel bed next to the house and use the microclimate to grow heat loving plants?
 
Rich Pasto
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hey there - I do take advantage of the micro climate, which is well defined. the bulbs there started to come up in november...i have a raised bed there that indeed has heat loving plants. Shade is the answer I agree. Will maybe have to bite the bullet and buy some aspens to augment the trees we have already. Can always change where they are or remove them later.
 
laura sharpe
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where do you live? zone wise. I am in Illinois so the sunlight does not seem like a problem, my southern lawns are always the lushest.
 
chrissy bauman
Posts: 131
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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what kind of weeds grow in your death zone? what do your neighbors have?
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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Eggplants, peppers, and some herbs laugh at heat. Also it may be worth looking at jujube and fig trees. They're supposed to be very hardy.

If your yard is bare dirt for now, then you may want to plant grasses and flowers that can grow there until they create enough humus and soil life that it can support other plants. Remember, the soil is more than just the humus - it's an ecosystem and the richer it is the more life-sustaining. Bare dirt is hard for anything to survive in. Can you bring in mulch and thickly mulch the whole area?

I had a hornbeam and I loved it! I hope yours survive. The bigger they are the longer they take to get established, so at 10 feet you'll need to water them for years, but the flowers are worth it!
 
Rich Pasto
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I believe we are in USDA zone 5b. Weeds...some kind of splurge. A crazy weird succulent looking deal that is the bane of my existence. Common mallow. shepherds purse. The mallow comes up everywhere. we have weeding family time in the spring and summer.

Peppers do well in our yard. That is when the dogs dont eat them. They are crafty and have breached every security perimeter Ive ever set up around my cubanelles. This year we are building a deck off the master bedroom that will house out heat loving plants.

My neighbors all have established yards. on one side it is shaded completely by pines. The other side has a wildflower and native plant paradise really. The deal with mine is that a when we moved in, the house had been a rental. So they opted for "easy to maintain" cheap-O options. They are never cheap. Too much pea gravel. Carpet juniper and russian olive were the whole backyard. So I got a skid loader and scraped it all into a big pile and started over. We're going to get some aspens this year and focus on arranging things to shade the house and reduce the reflection.
 
laura sharpe
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Hmm my guess is the problem really isnt too much sunshine but lack of water stresses the plants you want and allows the spurge to take over. Perhaps lack of nutrients in the soil as well.

The cure for any bad place I would try first is a boatload of ...u guessed it organic matter. This would fertilize the ground and hold moisture in. Then you have to control the spurge while what you want grows there.

I really would like to say grow bamboo, if you are in a hurry to get that side of the house in shade, it is a good idea. I love bamboo growth but others do not. Bamboo requires that you keep it in from taking over the entire yard either using a barrior or by root cutting.

Bamboo is one possible plant but that other poster had a very very nice point, you have a warm microclimate there. It is likely a nicely sheltered location from late frosts, you can grow more delicate things there which get all pissy at late frosts. My thoughts of microclimate things include grapes and apricots (which I totally cant grow). Grapes have the advantage of actually liking poor well drained soil (this is why they are always growing on hillsides where nutrients are often washed away)...they would gladly grow up on trellises and shade that side of your house too.

Just my 2 cents for whatever it is worth.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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I'm wondering if lack of topsoil could be another factor in the problem. When they build houses, especially if they have basements, they often don't worry about whether they leave topsoil or just subsoil on top in the yard. Without much topsoil you'll wind up with just a few hardy weeds. As Laura said, adding organic matter may be the answer. Between the sun and watering and lack of cover, the top of the soil can get pounded down so the air pockets disappear, making the plants have a really tough time getting their roots to penetrate and also depriving the roots of oxygen. Without organic matter in the soil, few earthworms will be there so there won't be worm tunnels for the roots to follow, and the fungi and bacteria that hold the structure of the soil to maintain air pockets will also be gone or struggling. If your ground is freezing now, the frost crystals can break up the soil and make some air pockets but then if it gets walked on that crushes them back down.

Plants themselves will cool the air as they evaporate water on hot days. So a planted yard will be cooler than a bare dirt yard.

Maybe planting some white clover then putting down a thin layer of straw to give it some shade and hold in soil moisture until it gets established might help. You'd probably have to find an inoculant to help it fix nitrogen. Farmers do "frost planting" with clover, which is putting the seed down in winter so it can grow early in spring. So now could be a good time for that. Clover will help any bushes you plant by fixing nitrogen, can help compete with the spurge you have, and will be attractive and nice to walk on. And it gives you the option of feeding bees. Downside is, if you have chickens they'll eat all the sprouting clover seeds as they find them - what happened to me this year!

I'm also wondering if your dog has much to do with it. The urine can kill plants. The digging for a cool spot to lie down kills, and the walking (on tender newly planted plants) also kills. I've got two dogs and I think they're one of the biggest obstacles to "yardening". Well, other than the chickens. Bored dogs do get through just about any obstacle we try to erect. My sister's dog ate the hoses off of her air conditioner.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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60% of the water that plants gets are not from their own root but from fungi in exchange for sugar.
When you scrap the dirt you destroyed that 60% built in root system.
It also seem that you soil is lacking in nitrogen so I would add alot of bean and peas.
I would also grow alot of winter ground cover aka winter rye/wheat. And also winter crops in general.
You should really consider planting a pasture/flower seed mix to build the soil.
Once the soil has been built back you you are still going to need 25%-40% of the area to be nitrogen fixers.
such as serbian pea, autumn olive, goumi, silverberrry, seaberry, beans, beans, any legumes, aspens, etc
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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