Sunday, January 18, 2009

My first rock garden

Since I live in sandy South Florida, with not a free rock in sight, I bought some feather lite rocks from Home Depot, but they were pricey at almost $9 per rock! The 7 rocks I needed for my little rock garden at the front of the house set me back almost $70. That was at the start when I thought I had a gardening budget. Pretty soon, reality sunk in and I realized, there was no way I could buy more rocks.

About 2 years later, I finally got to "almost" finishing my little rock garden in my backyard, I had grown one of my Aloe Barberae plants to a very nice looking specimen, the roots were growing into the soil and it became necessary to plant it soon.

Every time I drove by or were close to the garden center, I would stop and buy a couple of the cheapest top soil bags, around $2 per bag, about 5 at a time. Every time I went to a store with a garden center, I would look at what Aloes or succulents they had available, and buy the smallest, cheapest plants available, normally from $2.99 - $3.99

I had run out of roundup and didn't want to spent the $19 for a new bottle, so I started keeping all heavy cardboard boxes. I would then take the cardboard, cover as large an area as I had soil for, then dump the soil about 8 inches thick onto the cardboard. I repeated this procedure over a couple of months until I had a fairly nice sized "raw" piece of raised soil in the middle of the grass. I started off by planting the Aloe Barberae on one side - I cut a circular section into the cardboard and removed a piece of grass large enough for the root ball to fit into. I dug a hole only deep enough so that the plant would sit level with the rest of the soil and deep enough so the roots would be able to grow deep.

For a couple of months, all I had was this square section of elevated dirt and one plant in the middle of it. As I had time and budget, I kept on expanding this area. By now, my Aloe Thraskii which I also bought on eBay, was screaming to be planted out, its roots were growing out of the container and into the soil. I had no extra top soil on hand, so I took my wheelbarrow and dug up some soil from all over the bare beds at the back of the yard where it would not be noticed. I covered the remaining area with cardboard boxes, used a box cutter to cut the edges into a nice curve, then covered this area with about 5 inches of native soil "sand". I planted the Aloe Thraskii on the opposite side of the Aloe Barberae. I dug up some Society Garlic I had planted in an area that is now being overgrown with periwinkle, divided the clump and planted it all around the Aloe Thraskii.

Now I had some plants and no rocks. I had a bag of White Portland cement (a little expensive at $17 per 80lb bag) that I had bought many months earlier for some hypertufa projects, some cement coloring (iron oxides). I made a mixture of the cement, colorants, playsand (cheap at $2 per 20lb bag). I made it into a pliable play dough consistency, then dug some rough holes in my sandy soil, sprinkled some of the colorants all over the hole, then took the cement and made a shell by packing it all over the sides off the hole about 3 inches thick. I waited about 2 days for it to cure and removed my first "rock". It came out very well. I experimented with varying consistencies and mixes of cement color and made 6 different sized rocks and placed them in a line on a "ridge" in my rock garden.

If there is enough interest, I will post detailed instructions of how I made my rocks. If you have already searched the Internet, you will probably know, that its almost impossible to find. Everyone wants to sell you an e-book or DVD ...

This garden is not complete, I plan on making it about twice as large and add more rocks and aloes (growing VERY slowly from seeds) when they are ready. I also need to make an edge as you can see the grass is already creeping into it.

Here are the plants in this garden.

1. Aloe Barberae - ebay, $10
2. Aloe thraskii - internet, $10
3. Aloe juvenna, Target, $3.99
4. Aloe sparkling beauty hybrid, Wallmart, $3.99
5. Aloe striata, Target, $3.49
6. Jade plant, cutting from existing plant
7. Alia ciliaris, Target, $2.99
8. Red hot poker, grown from seed - hasn't been doing too well, will see if it survives this summer
9. Society garlic, Tulbaghia Violacea, 1 plant divided into 10 clumps, $4.99

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