Gardening in the mountains

Ever walk into a garden that made you sigh with its beauty? Though it doesn’t seem that way, no garden is created perfect. There is always something that proves to be a challenge to every ardener, whether you’re a beginning hobbyist or master gardener.

Gardeners commonly complain of rocky or loamy soil. While many areas of the mountains may have rich soil, the rocky soil encountered there presents a host of challenges. Rocky soil has less nutrients and does not hold water well.

You can try to remove larger rocks to make it easier for your plants to thrive, but over time, it may feel like a lost cause. However, there are clever strategies you may implement to improve your chances of success when combating rocky soil in the mountains:

  1. Make Lasagna — Lasagna Beds, That Is

If the soil is so rocky that you can’t till or dig, the lasagna bed might just be perfect garden for your needs. This method will give you nutrient rich, easily sifted soil without the need to move heavy rocks.

You could grow ingredients for a lasagna in this bed, but the term applies more to adding layers of organic matter that “cook down over time” to give you the nutritious soil you desire. Lasagna beds are also called sheet composting. It’s helpful to the environment because you’ll be using garden and kitchen waste to essentially compost in the bed to build up the soil:

  • First, use brown, corrugated cardboard or three layers of newspaper right on the grass or weeds. Wet it. This will attract earthworms to help loosen the soil.
  • Alternate layers of “browns” such as autumn leaves and newspaper with “greens” such as table vegetable scraps and grass clippings. Your ingredients are anything normally compostable.

The result will give you rich soil within just a few weeks. If planting in the summer, add topsoil so you’re able to get started as soon as possible. Over time, the layers will decompose, and the nutrients will sink to the bottom, resulting in thriving plants.

  1. Pick Plants That Prefer Rocky Soil

Discover your planting zone and talk to nurseries about what plants are native to the area. Local plants will do well, and there are many plants that like rocky soil.

Common bearberry does well in zones two to six and is a low-growing, evergreen plant that produces white or pink flowers during the summer and red berries in the fall. It is a prime choice for ground cover and drought-tolerant gardens.

Columbine is a showy, intricate flower in a variety of colors from yellows and reds to violets. It does well in zones three to nine and is hardy, as it thrives nearly anywhere. Columbine is found in rocky and open areas, in the woods along paths and perhaps in your neighbor’s backyard.

Showy milkweed also thrives in zones three to nine and is a butterfly magnet. If want a beautiful plant that also helps butterflies and bumblebees, this milkweed is the ticket. Out in the wild, it’s found all over central and western North America. This plant produces three to five inch rose colored flowers with silver-like foliage.

It’s amazing how certain plants are able to survive in nearly any climate and habitat, including rocky soil. In fact, certain plants prefer it.

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  1. Plan a DIY Greenhouse

There are likely particular plants you want to grow that will not do well in the rocky soil or the climate. If that’s the case, consider planning and building your own DIY greenhouse.



Some greenhouse planning projects may only cost $20, or the time it takes to collect a few plastic bottles.

Greenhouses that use recyclable materials, such as plastic bottles, are time-consuming yet rewarding — you just may need at least 1,000 plastic bottles, literally, to begin. The plus side is that it also may be constructed to self-water the plants.

A greenhouse is actually relatively simple to construct, depending on your needs. You will be growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs year round.

From lasagna gardens to DIY greenhouses, these are only a few tips to get you started as you plan your garden. Rocky soil doesn’t have to hinder you. Many plants thrive in such conditions.

While gardening in rocky soil may be challenging, it isn’t impossible. Work with the environment and not against it. What plants do you imagine in your mountain garden?