Through some quirk of fate (or maybe karma) a glacier scraped half of eastern Canada down to bedrock, chewed it all up, and dumped it here. Fifteen thousand or so years later I came along and bought a piece of the great dumping ground of glacial-fluvial sediments, so I have gravel; tons of it.
It wasn’t a week after I bought the place that I discovered the front lawn was growing on a skim coat of loam over gravel. (I’ve seen thicker skim coats on wallboard.) The back yard wasn’t pretending to be anything but a gravel lot with a few struggling weeds, but I knew that before I bought it. Gardeners are often willing participants in such folly.
There was only one thing to do; bring in loam, and lots of it. The first ten yards was used to skim coat the gravel back yard and quickly grow something resembling grass that the kids could wiggle their toes in. The second ten yards was used for front perennial beds, a hosta bed, raised beds in the back yard, and shrubs. I also needed manure, so that meant more trucks. At one point there were so many trucks coming and going that one might have thought I had opened a greasy spoon.
Over the years more and more has been planted, and if you didn’t look too closely at the back “lawn,” you would never know that virtually everything here is growing over and is surrounded by gravel. To pull this off I have to dig out a wheelbarrow full of the stony stuff for every six inch pot I plant, and then replace it with a mix of compost, loam, peat moss and manure. When I plant a tree or shrub, I’m looking at removing several wheelbarrow loads of gravel. (What I do with all this gravel is another story.)
One day, the last trucks will come with the last few loads of loam so I can install a real lawn in the back yard, but for now they just keep rolling over the weeds. The reason I’m writing this is to let novice gardeners know that with time, patience, and at times Herculean effort, even a gravel lot can become a garden. If you have poor soil don’t despair-just order some loam and start digging.