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Old 10-06-2009, 08:18 PM   #1
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How to prepare the land in my...

back yard to convert it into a beautiful garden?

I recently got a house in El Paso TX and it has a pretty good size back yard which I wish to transform into a beautiful garden with alot of fruit/nut trees. My first task is how to prepare the rocky soil to be able to plant on it?

Please help!!!



I already made a research of which trees would do well in this type of soil.
Also, I already thought about the irrigation system(sort of), which will be a drip system method.

Thank you!


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Old 10-07-2009, 12:09 PM   #2
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I used to do landscape design in a distant past life and of course always started with an accurate and scaled plot plan. I would encourage you to do the same because it will give you a good discussion starting point with any contractors you will need, an easy way to do material take offs and so forth.

Very important!!! Before you do much digging or tilling of any kind you should remember to get the free utility locating folks out to mark any water, gas, electrical, phone, cable, etc. lines. Mark them on your plot plan.

Some will disagree but I always thought getting soil lab test results early on saved money in the long run. A thorough lab test series is not that expensive for a residential situation. A good soil lab will be able to tell you lots about the soil and what you need to do to replace or amend it, balance its Ph, makes its minerals available to plants, etc. Obviously with rocky soil you are going to want to add a fair amount of organic material at some point. Often with housing developments topsoil got scraped off when the sites were graded and maybe replaced again later on. You may have different soil types in the same yard and they will have you test for this.

Somehow you will have to deal with at least the large rocks where you are going to plant and with smaller ones if you plan to try a lawn or anything like that. There is no easy way to do this although you might consider a landscape contractor or someone else with equipment to turn the soil over and screen out the rocks. You may find that raised beds make more sense for some types of plantings if the soil is so rocky you find you will be fighting it endlessly just to put in marigolds or petunias.

For your trees you will want to make sure to dig planting holes at least 2-3 times the size of the rootballs. Break up the root balls if you can and make sure you have good drainage in the planting holes. Amend with a planting mix, time-release fertilizer or planting pellets/sticks. This may sound counter to logic but you will want to prune new planted trees back about 1/3 right away and correct any future structural problems (e.g. crossing branches) at the same time. Pruning will stimulate growth, especially in the roots, and your tree will actually look healthier in a short time than if you do not prune it. You need to prune back to build strong branches for supporting the fruit and nuts.

Just a few warnings from lots of experience with clients. They are not necessarily high maintenance but some people underestimate the attention to regular seasonal pruning, pesticide spraying (organic or chemical), bird netting, gathering of dropped fruit and nuts, etc. that fruit and nut trees require to be healthy and to produce. Also assume the best and that your trees will be prolific! Will you be able to pick, consume or give away all the fruit from trees that ripen all at once? Consider grafted or dwarf species for a residential yard. They are easier to reach and will usually produce more than enough to satisfy you. Be sure and plant your trees to allow for their mature size plus the room you will need to get around them to pick nuts and fruit. Remember that fruit and nut trees that hang over into a neighboring yard do not always make for great friendships (there is something about the sound of walnuts or pecans hitting the hood of a nicely polished BMW that is disquieting I suppose? Fruit flies swarming the splattered figs on a windshield?).

Drip irrigation is wonderful so you are on the right track thinking that is what you should install. It is inexpensive and great for the health of plants. Keep it simple though and do not get wowed by the fancy emitters. You will do just fine with basic components that do nothing but drip in the 1-4GPH range. Depending on what else you have on the drip circuit you may want several per tree and placed out around the drip line---not right up against the trunk. Water deeply and infrequently (once the trees get established).

Sounds like you have done your tree homework so continue the trend with other plantings you have in mind. Annoy your nursery folks. Check with ag extension and master gardening programs in your area. See what native plants might fit your landscape plans, etc.

Have fun!


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Old 10-07-2009, 04:06 PM   #3
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What you do to prepare your El Paso yard really depends on how much work and money you want to put into it. My yard is only 1/5 of an acre so I just brought in about 20 - 25 yards of quality topsoil before planting anything. If you go down this route, it's important to check what goes into the topsoil first. Good topsoil is a blend of screened dirt (preferably sandy loam), peat, and organic compost. It should feel fluffy. This should cost about $25 - 35 dollars per square yard if you pick it up yourself. Some companies will wave the delivery fee if you get a full truck load (about 15 yards). I've been very pleased with the results so far.

You said that you've already thought about what trees you want. As you decide where to plant these trees and other stuff, you may want to check out The site contains web-based landscape design software. It's pretty easy to use and doesn't cost anything.

Good luck,
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Old 11-20-2009, 12:05 PM   #4
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I really like using a free software program to help plan all this. Saves money in the long run I think.

I came across some free landscape design software programs here that you might find useful.

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