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Feeding a gravel Garden


So I decided to do a gravel garden (partly because my lawn had more moss than grass - and it was too time consuming to tend to) So I decided to rip it up, plant a load of shrubs and conifers etc. Now, when I planted I made sure I dug in lots of compost, and manure, and also planted overhang with Bone Meal. But now I am wondering how to I add the vital elements into the soil and give the plants a good feed. Do they need it? is it as simple as a liquid fertizler and if so when?, do I need to make sure its a dry couple of days so I dont over water, or the rain doesn't dilute or wash away the feed. Are there any tabs or slow release sticks that you can stick in the ground. 

The garden looks good, but I didn't think of the practicality. Do you even need to feed  garden - my dad has never once fed his, apart from when he has planted stuff. 

Anyway advice and alternatives welcome. 



  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,924
    Most shrubs and conifers need no feed if the underlying soil is a reasonable quality.  :)
    At most, you could use the occasional liquid feed -seaweed or similar. I don't bother because it would be constantly getting washed through.
    I have clay soil so it's got enough nutrients anyway for anything planted direct. Light sandy soil might be more difficult, but it would be question of picking the right plants to start off with if you have that.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 9,562
    The classic gravel-garden plants would be kinds that thrive in low-nutrient conditions. Most shrubs probably don't need feeding unless they're showing signs of being deficient in nutrients. If they look healthy I wouldn't worry about feeding.
    If do you want to feed your shrubs I think the rain (or watering) would wash in something powdery like fish blood and bone, or a liquid feed would work. Probably best to avoid something in bigger lumps like chicken poo pellets or growmore. A foliar feed that you dilute and spray on might work? I've no experience of those but it might be worth a look if you think you need to feed.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,399
    edited March 2022
    Most shrubs are fine without having to add additional 'food'. Plants don't need 'food' in same the way we do, they just need soil minerals, water and sunlight. Fertilisers and manure etc replenish minerals in the soil, but that's not really crucial to do unless you're growing quite intensively or the soil is very nutrient deficient.
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,897
    As mentioned above seaweed extract contains all the vital micro nutrients that a plant needs.
    You can use it as a foliar spray (which is fast-acting), or water it into the soil.
    I use it on all my plants (inc non-flowering houseplants)
    I also use seaweed meal on the borders - it smells lovely too

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,924
    The liquid seaweed can certainly be used as a foliar feed @JennyJ, but again- I never really do it because it would just get washed away  ;)
    You can probably get in around the base of shrubs with FB&Bone. I've done it with a peony [occasionally]  but only because I can get into the central crown of it at this time of year. Evergreens would be tricky.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,317
    Whether you need to feed or not does depend on:

    a) The type of soil you have under the gravel, e.g. sandy, well-draining soil that washes out nutrients fast, or clay or loamy soil which retains water better, is generally richer in nutrients and holds onto those nutrients better.

    b) What you have planted. Conifer, grasses and Mediterranean-type shrubs, herbs and perennials that thrive in poor soil (classic ‘gravel garden’ plants) don’t need additional feeding. Some flowering shrubs do benefit from the occasional feed, especially if planted in the first type of soil I mentioned above. In which case I would go with the seaweed and an annual scattering of BFB as suggested.

    If you tell us a bit about the above things, plus give us your general location and garden aspect, forum members can give you more specific advice on what plants should do well for you and how to care for them.

    Plants usually tell you if they are lacking and either which way, probably won’t need anything extra this year, since you have already beefed up the soil with compost, manure etc.

    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 123
    Miracle Gro has liquid feed and powder feed to dilute.  Generally our feeding is for container plants, but we'll add some ericaceous feed to Camelia, Rhodo, Acer and Jamsinoids.  I guess we feel that it helps to 'add a bit' to the soil.  Probably unnecessary.

    Don't do it any more frequently than once every 2 weeks as you don't want to make the ground toxic through over nutrient saturation.  Also, with enough manure and whatnot dug in, I wouldn't bother about feed for a year or two at least.

    As others have said, though, unless it's a plant that really needs the nutrients (like bedding plants maybe) or the soil condition was utterly awful, there is probably no need to bother feeding at all and the soil ecosystem will take care of itself.
  • bcpathomebcpathome Posts: 1,249
    Basically it should be fine as it is. If we get very dry weather for a long time just put the hose over it or watering cans from the water butt .
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439
    I thought the whole point of a gravel garden was to grow things 'hard', that is without much in the way nutrients. Like a Mediterranean garden.
    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • GravelEaterGravelEater Posts: 123
    Redwing said:
    I thought the whole point of a gravel garden was to grow things 'hard', that is without much in the way nutrients. Like a Mediterranean garden.
    I think it comes down to a personal perspective about what is lower in maintenance and also aesthetically pleasing.  Gravel comes in many colours and varieties so there is opportunity to have different colours and textures around a spaces floor area.

    We've used a permeable liner to prevent weeds with a good 50 mm of granite gravel on top.  For us, this has meant low maintenance in terms of weeding, as the weeds that do pop up are only tiny and the roots are in the gravel only, or they are around the edges and again easy to pick out or spritz.  No need for turf care, which seems like a potentially tough time if the desire is something akin to the 'perfect' lawn.

    Gravel does do a reasonable job as a mulch.  Keeps the soil moist and thus the shallow roots somewhat protected.  Sure it's not going to add any nutritional value like a manure/compost or even bark chipping mulch might.

    Our space is all gravel, varying heights and two shades.  Whilst it is pleasant to us, it might very much not be to the next person, so each to their own :)
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