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Planting in a flower bed based with builders’ sub base.

Staffordshire, United Kingdom Gb

I live in central England, UK.

My house, a fairly recent new-build is fronted by a small service road, with a narrow flower bed along one side of it (see photo). This is around 12 metres long and has a curved front edge varying between 30cm - 1 metre wide.

I have started digging it out, intending to plant a line of roses, etc, but find that the builders had evidently put in a sub base across the whole width - road AND flower bed - barely 30cm down. The roots of the plants that they had put in and also daffodil bulbs that I had planted, are all showing signs of rotting.

What are my options? I’m guessing it will be strenuous and time-consuming to acquire and wield a pick-axe to remove this layer of compacted matter. (And I don’t have the strongest arm muscles around!) I expect it will also be expensive to refill it – would I have to buy compost, from a garden centre?

As an alternative, are there plants that would be tolerant of this soil?

Ideas, please!




Alpines! Low growing and very tolerant of rocky terrain. You would have to ensure that the soil on top of the builder's base rubbish is not too heavy. Add some sand and grit to the compost. You could also finish off the top with a layer of gravel which will help mulch weeds and stop them shading out the choice plants.

Don't despair - I spend a lot of my time removing such horrible rubble from people's gardens. It can be done but I would stick with the alpines if you say that its across the whole width of the flower bed.

Good luck!

9 Oct, 2008


Why not take up Clairefifi's suggestion, but also start at one end of this border and try to work the soil in small doses over the next few years. It would, as you say, be hugely expensive to replace all the soil at once - so get a compost heap going and use that to dig in as well as bought compost whenever you plant anything new. Add chicken manure pellets too - enrich the soil and make it more fertile. The suggestion of adding grit and sand is also helpful to improve the drainage. I know all this will take time and energy, but you will get there in the end without killing yourself if you do a little at a time. Good luck.

9 Oct, 2008

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