My husband and I are in our 70s, can't afford a lot of work on the yard and can't do it ourselves. Some years ago, portions of the yard were filled in with plastic sheeting and small rocks in hope of keeping the weeds out. Naturally, over time it backfired. Short of having the yard dug up, is there anything we can plant that will reach through the rocks and flourish?
There is also a narrow, 18-inch-wide strip alongside the garage where nothing grows, mainly because it requires hand watering and the neighborhood cats use it for a toilet. Any suggestions to help with both problems?
Janice Goodwin, Sacramento
First, let's tackle the cats and the garage strip. Here are some suggestions from UC master gardeners:
To keep the cats out of the bed by the garage, cover the soil with 1-inch poultry wire and cut holes in it where you want to position a plant.
Eliminate the hand watering by installing a soaker hose. You just attach a hose to the soaker and let it run for several hours depending upon the water needs of the plants.
You did not mention the exposure. (Is it full sun? Or partial shade?) But your local nursery can help you to select some easy-care small shrubs, perennials or bulbs that will thrive in the bed.
Now for the rock-covered areas: Rake out as much of the plastic and rock as possible. The rocks may be salvageable for decoration in the new landscape. The plastic will inhibit water movement and could present drainage issues.
Focus on plants with strong root systems. Shrubs with fibrous root systems such as azaleas will be inhibited by the rocks.
The rock size and quantity and whether the soil is amended with compost will all be factors in the root development. Roots, regardless of the plant species, require adequate soil between the rocks.
Then, plant some ground covers or perennials that can tolerate rocky soil. Some possibilities: creeping sedum, vinca minor, daylilies, hyssop, bearberry and asters.
In response to a recent question about removing tree sap from a car:
"Spray WD-40 on the sap on the car and it comes right off. This method doesn't work as well at removing sap from the windows, but is a miracle for the sap on the rest of the car. Tried and proven on numerous occasions! Please spread the word!"
Wendy Harnage, Placerville
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