The Q&A Archives: Creating a Garden from Subsoil

Question: My backyard is entirely subsoil because the contractor scraped all of the topsoil forward to place the house on. The subsoil is red, filled with lots of rocks, cracked nine months out of the year. We have blistering heat in the summer, and the backyard has a western exposure. The only tree so far that has grown is a grapefruit. Help! I read the Q

Answer: You first need to deal with the subsoil. The only thing to do is either bring in fresh topsoil and/or amend the soil HEAVILY with compost, leaves, grass clippings, manures... I would start small, taking on a section of the yard at a time. Perhaps an area that has high visibility should be first. Amend that soil by either mixing it with the subsoil or creating a raised bed. Then you can try to plant asclepias (butterfly weed) and Buddelia (butterfly bush) and many other flowers in the soil to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Plants that can take the heat and drought such as lantana, verbena and salvia may also be good choices.

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