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Master Gardener: Gardening with rocks

Nan Porter
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Yikes, my garden grew too big. What to do?

I started my garden many years ago when there was a 20- to 30-minute rain practically every afternoon. I would expand every summer with more wildflowers and perennials. The garden grew and grew and grew. Then, the rains stopped, and I had to water by hand since we are in the country on a well.

The ground around my flowers is rock hard since I only watered the plants individually. That took about two to three hours every other day. I weeded and weeded and weeded. Oh, and I got a horse that I wanted to ride. Should I pull weeds or go ride my horse?

I had to figure out what to do. I didn’t want to kill my sparse flowers that were significantly getting more sparse the drier the climate got. I had used river rocks for borders. I love rocks, collected them on walks, vacations, even got a ton for a Mother’s Day present a few years ago.

The answer to my dilemma: rocks. I decided to fill in the borders with more river rocks. Then, I decided to add rocks where there were bare or weed infested spots. 

At first, I only wanted river rocks, but they didn’t cover much ground. My husband decided to jack hammer up some big rocks buried in the ground in a small pasture. I used all the jagged pieces from the project. I continued to look for river rocks to put in the flower garden.

Then, my husband decided to make flagstone steps, and there were pieces left over. The leftover flagstone covered way more ground than the river rocks. Flagstone joined the river rocks in the flower garden.

I found a partial flat of flagstone on sale and filled more spots. However, I still needed more. I bought a full pallet to cover more area. Wow, flagstone is expensive. I ran out of garden money, so I will have to wait another year for more flagstone.

My problem of weeding and watering is slowly getting solved with rocks. From the pictures, you can see the different sizes and types of rocks I have used. I think the different sizes and types complement the rugged look of the garden. I still plan to add a pallet a year to the garden for a few more years. 

My garden is becoming manageable. I have time to ride and less weeding. I still need to water. I think my next project will be to learn how to put in a drip system.

I now have a garden of flowers and rocks. I might add some bushes next.

Nan Porter, Master Gardener class of 2017, gardens on a well at 7,100 feet. She is a gardener, barrel racer and photographer with Nan Porter Photography.


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