Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Pocket Planting October 5, 2008

Every gardener with fair to poor soil is faced with a dilemma – to dig it out and replace it with a variety of possible soil amendments, or… not? One solution to this question, for those with limited money, time, soil dig-ability and/or back strength, is something known as “pocket planting.” I have practiced this method for years, with some success, but only just learned that there is a name for it.

Basically, the idea is to dig out a space for a plant, amend the dug-out area with as much good soil/compost as you can, being sure to mix at least some of the original soil in, and hope for the best. It’s not the most scientific way to give your new babies a good start in life, but in cases where the alternative is to leave a rocky, weedy, or clay-filled site bare, it may be better than nothing. In the case of a parking strip, unless you’re extra industrious, feeling really flush or having a landscaper take care of getting it started for you, it might be your only viable choice.

Here is a link to a Portland nursery’s page with ideas for “hellstrip” plantings, complete with before/after photos of their pocket planting site. The “after” photos say it all!

Has anyone else used this method where you would otherwise have had to dig out the entire area? How did it work for you? Or are you more in favor of the garden advice that it’s pointless to “plant a $50 plant in a $10 hole”?

Late summer color


6 Responses to “Pocket Planting”

  1. Tyra Says:

    This makes sense, I dig in all fresh garden waste into the soil and that works for me in my garden.

  2. Megan Says:

    I didn’t know there was a name either, that’s my planting SOP, and it seems to do well in my garden, along with a mulch of compost every year. My soil was completely compacted and impossible to dig when I started, and it’s mostly workable after 10 years.

  3. Racquel Says:

    I do the same thing with existing beds everytime I plant I mix a little compost in with my natural clay soil to help aerate it. I think it works pretty good.

  4. Jen Says:

    My soil is really dense like clay and this is what I did when I planted some bulbs last week. I put the bulbs in and covered them with compost, then added the clay topsoil and mulched them. The ground is a little bit squoosier, though, which makes me worry that the bulbs may be more accessible to squirrels. Hoping for the best!

  5. mrtumnas Says:

    I’ve done pocket planting with fruit trees and shrubs. I’ll dig out a fairly large hole and replace it with garden soil and compost, as well as throwing some organic matter in the bottom of the hole to help drainage. To be honest the trees I did it too don’t look any healthier than the ones I just stuck in the ground real fast, but I’m sure it would work better with annual or perennial plants

  6. Willi Says:

    Thanks for the Portland Nursery link. It’s great!

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