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Ideas and advice for concrete troughs (for novice gardener!)

karen-loukaren-lou Posts: 1
edited July 2020 in Problem solving

I don't have a front garden at all, we're straight out on the street, but we do have two 'beds' under bay windows either side of the front door. They are concrete troughs no deeper than about 6-8inches (I guess about 2m across). It's exposed and faces west. One side has some hebes that are surviving but I can't get anything to survive let alone thrive in the other side. Except weeds!
We are surrounded by neighbourhood cats and they seem to dig in and do their thing around any new plants and it's driving me crazy, you can smell it when you open the front door.

I'm after advice on shrubs that are quick growing, dense (prickly would be even better!), and can cope with very shallow soil. I'm very tempted to hard landscape over them, but if can get anything to grow, I would prefer that.

Thanks in advance.


  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,120
    I assume you want short things that won't grow up in front of the windows. Maybe dwarf berberis varieties? Not sure how happy they'd be in shallow soil though, and it would probably keep them smaller than the listed heights. Small-leaved ivies (the kind they sell as foliage plants for hanging baskets) would probably be OK to drape over the fronts but might take off up the walls as well. A mulch of something like large-ish slate pieces might discourage the moggies.

    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,457
    How about going retro and having a mini rockery?  If you put slates on edge to divide it up, infill with soil then plant alpines and possibly houseleeks or sedums?
  • SkylarksSkylarks Posts: 379
    Can’t advise about plants but using lots of bamboo skewers stuck in the soil should deter cats from pooing. You can remove the skewers once you get some plants in there.
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,120
    Another thought - for new planting it would be worth replacing, or at least enriching, the soil. If drying out quickly is a problem, you could work in some water-retaining gel (but they'll probably still need daily watering in the growing season as they're shallow and probably in the rain shadow).
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,824
    Sedums can cope with poor soil, are drought tolerant once established (so less having to traipse through the house with watering cans), and don't need too much faffing with (no deadheading, or feeding).  They come in a huge variety of size and colours.  Most produce flowers with pollen that the bees love.

    You could choose a couple of larger varieties (such as Sedum Matrona or Herbstfreude), to give you some impact and fill the planters with some height.  They will reasonably quickly clump up, leaving no bare soil.  These varieties are about 2 feet tall and wide.

    There are many smaller alpine varieties, and these can act as a ground cover, completely covering any bare soil.  If looked after during the first 6 months of planting, they will end up covering the entire surface of the planter quite quickly, and some will drape over the edge, which will help to soften it.

    Here are some suggestions for the smaller varieties:

    Sedum Dragons Blood - Lovely red foliage, and this will creep over the edge.  
    Sedum Weihenstephaner Gold - This will also drape over the edge
    Sedum Pachyclados
    Sedum Sexangulare

    Delosperma, a type of succulent, will also cover the soil, and has vibrant flowers (Lilac Ice, Cooperii and Nubigenum are nice varieties).  They cope well with little watering.

    If you do go for Sedum's, check the size of the plant before you buy.
  • InglezinhoInglezinho Posts: 568
    Alpines...! Don't forget however that concrete is alkaline so make sure you get plants for limestone or chalky soil. Sedums, no problem. Pinks and saxifrage always did very well for me.
    Everyone likes butterflies. Nobody likes caterpillars.
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