The Q&A Archives: Foundation Planting

Question: Everything I ever plant next to the foundation of my house dies. It is the southwest side. The plants appear to get sort of a root rot. Is there anything I can spray or mix in to the soil prior to planting? Or must I dig up all the soil and replace it? If so, how large an area for say one clematis?

Answer: Soil close to the foundation of a house usually has a disproportionate amount of alkalinity, due to leaching of concrete as it cures, and due to drywall debris often left on building sites. Soil near a foundation is generally very dry (or if the drainage is poor, retains way too much moisture). To completely cure the problem, you should dig down about 24" and remove the soil, replacing it with fresh top soil. Be sure to slope the soil so moisture drains away from the foundation. Failing that, you can choose plants that love alkaline soils and plant them next to your foundation.

Even though it's much more work, I'd opt for replacing the soil. That way you'll be assured the drainage is good, plus you'll be able to plant anything that thrives in a southwest exposure.

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