Many desert and Mediterranean plants can live in nutrient poor soil, but most of them require great drainage. I have observed this in my desert travels, where the soil is very rocky and porous, and the terrain is frequently a sloping plain. These plants do not like wet feet! This presents a problem if you are growing a dry garden in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the soil is wet, heavy, and often nutrient rich.
|California native plants on a raised berm.|
The Ruth Bancroft Garden met this challenge by importing crushed rock from Mount Diablo, and creating large berms or mounds for their planting areas. These natural raised beds provide good drainage for the dry garden. They have also amended the heavy alluvial soil with organic matter to create lighter, more porous soil.
|Cacti planted on a raised mound.|
This technique of creating berms or mounds for dry gardens can be adapted for the home garden. On a small scale, a container, such as a clay pot, can be incorporated into the garden design to provide good drainage for dry-loving plants.
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