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Just bought my first home, very modest size but a nice comfortably sized yard to start a garden. ? Hot and humid here in Baton Rouge. I have been growing roses in pots literally for decades. It'll be great to get them in the ground. Main problem is I just discovered my ground is pretty dense clay. I have started digging the sod from the first planned flower bed. It is slow going, especially since it is so darned hot here. Two weekends in, now and I am just two thirds done with the first and smaller of two beds that are to be for the roses. I feel like I have nearly had heat stoke a couple times. Bleh. I am going to have to build borders to raise the beds a bit, thanks to the damn clay. I am wondering if 6 inches will be enough of a difference for drainage. Any more than that and the edging material starts to get expensive. I used to like using landscape timbers, because they are relatively cheap, but the Lowe's and Home Depots have stopped selling them here, I am told, because they rot in a few years in this climate. Any thoughts or suggestions?

By MikeInBatonRouge7
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Congratulations! You might consider using used bricks or stone, concrete blocks work, too.

HeathenFarmer Level 8 July 14, 2018


MissKathleen Level 9 July 13, 2018

Thanks! I just transplanted a boxwood last night and planted a hydrangea where the boxwood had been. Did it in the rain, in the dark. Now I'm gardening! lol
I am not sure I even want the boxwood, but it hurts to throw out healthy plants.


I started in clay, cliché, don't worry about removing grass, clay rock anything. Either law down cardboard, landscaping fabric, or news paper, or junk mail cover it up with mulch, more dirt, compost. etc. start planting on top of it. eventually the clay will break down with roots, and became beneficial. good bugs will break down everything and make your dead soil alive. You can watch permaculture video etc. What type of rose you have, real roses or even the pseudoname roses like rock rose etc stay just fine in clay soil. I grow food, so I grow real roses, and aside from rain water I don't even water. My clay soil hold water for the hot summer day of texas for my plants. I harvest a lot of food, more than I can consume.

Arshi Level 5 July 12, 2018

I know a lot about red clay. It's dead soil. My best suggestion is to put down a heavy cover of straw and leaves. But you need to put that in an area you're not going to be working for several years. You can add more to it over time as it decomposes. That will start the benefical microbes and critters working. Throw a small box together for compost. You can either work it or let it lay. Either way it will decompose into beautiful rich soil.

freeofgod Level 8 July 12, 2018

I know about the heat. Yesterday was 93 with 80% humidity. Felt like 105

This isn't red clay, such as in Alabama. This is dark grayish-brown. And my lawn growing straight out of it looks quite green.

@MikeInBatonRouge , red clay here is really red in some places. Bright orange in others. Here is western ky. Some places have beautiful, rich, black soil and some red. Damned coal companies have destroyed much of the topsoil. Timber companies even more.

@freeofgod that sucks. That angry, defensive attitude of coal country communities reminds me of the tobacco farmers,...staunchly defending the very thing that is slowly killing them. Ah, the power of money.

@MikeInBatonRouge Sounds like you are dealing with river silt; the biggest problem with it is compaction. A mulch material along with a porous material like charcoal and ash mixed into it will work wonders it is not a sterile soil at all and normally contains a good balance of calcium and magnesium as well as other nutriments laid down by the river.


As for concentrating on just one bed at a time, that is prudent, but having waited many years to finally have a permanent home, I have the urge to quit my job and do nothing but garden nonstop! Lol
I am focusing purely on the front yard this year. The back is bigger and entirely shady, a whole new learning experience.

no don't quit your job, gardening do better with patients and respect for the earth. Everything happen with time. Enjoy your new home.

@Arshi in reality, there is no way I can quit my job. It is what is paying for the house. I just said I feel like it. I need a long vacation, is all. ?


Congratulations on the purchase. You now have a "hobby" for the rest of your life.

HippieChick58 Level 9 July 12, 2018

The timbers really do not in a few years. I am in Ohio, and they rotted too quickly. I think they only lasted about five years at the most.

CraeftSmith Level 7 July 12, 2018

I have heavy clay soil and I added a lot of sand to my beds and compost to them and rototilled it in, this has really improved the soil. Making a border with retaining wall stones as Cast 1es suggests would last as long as you're alive, stones or old bricks could also be utilized and can be had for free if one uses a bit of ingenuity and elbow grease. If you have even a little bit of slope a french drain can be installed from the raised beds to a low point to assist with drainage so your plants don't drown in the spring rains.

Surfpirate Level 8 July 12, 2018

I live in coastal NC with the same problems .too wet in the spring and too dry in the summer . Six inches above grade is fine for my vegies I don't know about roses .

Besalbub Level 7 July 12, 2018

Congratulations ! Do hope you checked to see that yours is not in the flood zone , before you made your purchase . You might consider limiting this year's efforts to just one garden . I'd recommend investing in the , " castle stones ," Yes , they're more expensive than the treated wooden landscape timbers , but if properly compacting the earth before you install them , they'll last for decades , and you can stack them , so you can raise the beds by adding a second row of stones on top of the first . Good luck hon , Remember a new home is always a lot of work , so don't take on more than you can handle .

Cast1es Level 8 July 12, 2018

Thanks, and yes! My three central tools in my home search were Zillo, the local crime map and the revised flood zone map. Absolutely crucial. Just bought insurance for flood (which is optional but essential) and it will be activated Aug 4th. No floods allowed between now and then!!!! For those not near Baton Rouge, we had a major devastating flood in August is 2016. My little neighborhood escaped floodwaters, but just barely. Still, it is nice to know it is on a little higher ground.
I was given some salvage bricks, enough for one layer circumference around the central(larger) bed. I am thinking of digging a little trench all around, laying down weed barrier cloth, then pouring a concrete footing and coming back to mortar in bricks on top, leaving periodic little gaps for drainage.would like to have enough for a second layer, but will have to keep searching.

@MikeInBatonRouge You are an intelligent thinker . I'd be very conservative on the drainage spaces . When things flood , you don't want the water running in , and you most certainly don't want your topsoil leaking out . With a good well seated first layer , you can always come back to it later , and add an additional layer of bricks . You must also take the house weep holes into consideration . The dirt must not cover your weep holes , or you'll have water draining into the house . I hired a crew to raise mine all the way around my place .

@Cast1es , you know a lot about that stuff.

@Cast1es no worries about the house. As no raised beds will even come within 6 feet of the house.

@freeofgod Have been a homeowner for a L O N G time .

@MikeInBatonRouge I've been interested in remodeling for decades , and started a site here for that . Would you care to join it . Called Home remodeling .


Congratulations on the house!

Here in New England I don't have those issues - but I'm sure someone with knowledge will be along.

The one plant I brought from my old home to my new one - was a rose bush.

RavenCT Level 9 July 12, 2018
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