Best Plants For Growing In Chalky Soil
Is your garden on chalky, alkaline soil? Fear not, there is a huge choice of colourful, interesting plants for all seasons that will thrive on this low nutrient soil. My choice of the best plants for growing in chalky soil will give you inspiration and successful planting.
As always, the gardening mantra is…right plant right place. And right soil.
What is Chalky Soil?
Chalky soils are free-draining, alkaline and lower in nutrients than neutral, loamy soils.
They tend to dry out more quickly, particularly where the soil is shallow.
In some areas, the topsoil may be as little as a few inches before the spade hits a chalk layer. The soil is stony, gritty, poor water retention and has a ph of 7.1 or higher.
Deeper alkaline soils or if there is clay present can be more moisture retentive.
Limestone soil is very similar in this respect.
Alkaline soils are widely distributed throughout Britain. If you are not sure whether or not the soil in your area is chalky you can do a simple test.
Place a small amount of soil in some vinegar, you can use a small jar for this. If it froths up then you have chalky soil. It has a high content of calcium carbonate.
They can prove to be a challenge for gardeners as this type of soil can be notoriously difficult to improve, added organic matter will quickly break down being of little use in the long term.
Poor growth, health and yellowing leaves are a result of plants not being able to absorb nutrients such as iron and manganese by their roots.
How To Improve Chalky Soil
If the topsoil is very shallow then you will need to add some more so that you have a decent layer to plant into.
Adding organic matter does help but it will have to be a yearly task at the very least for it to be useful in the long term.
To prepare the ground, dig as deeply into the planting areas as possible each year, this ensures that any organic matter is thoroughly mixed into the soil. It increases the soil depth to give you a viable layer of growing medium for your plants and provides them with a good chance of survival.
Organic matter helps to keep the soil fertilised as well.
This work needs repeating regularly to keep the soil in a good growing condition.
Alternatively, work with what you have and choose plants suited for growing in chalky soil. The above will improve it temporarily and is repetitive and hard work.
There is a wide range of plants including perennials, shrubs, climbers and trees that will thrive on chalk soil, providing there is a sufficient surface layer of topsoil.
Water in chalk/lime areas is described as ‘hard’
Calcicoles are plants that can tolerate soil with a high lime content (lime-loving) e.g Syringa, Lavender, Spindle
Grow alkaline-loving plants, mulch regularly, water and feed plants well.
Select plants that prefer dry summers, sharp drainage and require little in terms of nutrients.
Best Plants For Growing In Chalky Soil
The Best Perennial Plants For Chalky Soil
There are many perennial plants that will thrive in chalky soils. They will come back year-on-year providing many months of colour and form in the garden borders. Choose plants that flower at different time to give your garden continuous interest throughout the growing months. See also Full sun perennials that bloom all summer
Can Trees Grow In Chalky Soil?
Don’t worry about not having a good choice of trees for your chalky/alkaline plot, onceAgain there is a plethora of beautiful trees that would love to get their roots into your garden. They will grow well and give you many years of pleasure.
- Apple Trees
- Common Oak
The Best Shrubs To Grow In Chalky Soil
A good variety of alkaline loving shrubs is also available for you to grow and enjoy.
Hardy Evergreen Flowering Shrubs
The Best Climbing Plants For Chalky Soil
I think climbing plants should always be included in any type of garden. They provide interest at height and can cover anything unsightly. They are perfect for growing over outbuildings, walls, fences or for creating a feature by growing over pergolas or arches. The Best hardy climbing plants
- Grape Vines
- Virginia Creeper
As you can see you have a wide range of lovely plants to choose from for your garden.
As with any other soil if you select the right plants then you can have a beautifully colourful, vibrant and productive garden all year round.
Seasonal interest is important I think in any garden so go for plants, shrubs and trees that change with the months. That way you have flowers or foliage throughout the year.
I hope this article has been of interest to you, providing ideas and tips for your alkaline garden.
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If you have any questions or thoughts then please pop them in the comments box below, I always reply as soon as possible.