by Texas Homesteader ~
I jokingly refer to our yard as the ‘Botanical Hole of Death’ since I struggle to get things to live in the ground right around our home.
Oh don’t get me wrong the land here is productive, lush and green. But apparently we built our home right in the middle of the Botanical Hole of Death. But I’ve found scrappy plants that thrive even in our yard!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love it here! I’ve said it before and I can’t say it enough. I love living in the country and the small-town feel.
We’ve made good friends here and feel a true sense of community. And there’s that old 1800’s Barn that just speaks to my heart!
My life here is perfect in all ways except one. I struggle to get plants, trees or shrubs to live in our yard!!
Problem With Confined Yard Soil
We have a tree-lined creek and many trees and shrubs in the pastures. Our fence lines are all lined with trees. And grass grows lush and thick in the hay meadows. But there’s a thin ribbon of land that just doesn’t want to grow anything but sparse grass.
And even that grass gives up the ghost when summer temps arrive. Yeah, we apparently planted our house in that thin Botanical Hole of Death ribbon.
I’ve had the soil tested, nothing seems amiss. Areas of our property can be highly erodible and some of the scarce topsoil was moved to build the pad for our home.
Perhaps our fertile layer of topsoil around our actual homesite is just too shallow now.
Difficulty Getting Trees/Shrubs To Grow
Over 17 various shade or fruit trees in the back yard ALONE have succumbed just 12-18 months after planting. Oh how I long for the lush canopy of trees and greenery I’ve always assured we enjoyed at every place we’ve ever lived.
So I started looking for plants with a strong will to survive. Those plants which would grow with or without ideal circumstances.
I’ve found a few winners and I continue to build on my successes. Here are a few things that have worked so far for me.
Relocating Volunteer Trees
One day I noticed a little seedling growing up next to our home’s foundation. Now I know it can’t stay there, I’ll need to pull it.
But wait a minute… If it wants to live THAT badly perhaps I should relocate it to a place in the yard where I wish to have a tree.
BINGO – that little seedling is still growing. It’s now around 8-ft tall. So I hope to have a shade tree here some day.
It’s been so successful I’ve since relocated another elm tree as well. It’s not yet as tall as the first tree I transplanted. But it’s growing sturdy & strong. I may be able to populate my entire back yard with beautiful (and FREE) shade trees!
Decorative Native Grasses
When your home is in the botanical hole of death you need to plant things that really, REALLY want to live! A sweet friend shared with me a start of something called Alamo Switchgrass.
Although our ‘flower bed’ around our home is mostly planted in an edible landscape, I planted this hardy switchgrass on the west side.
It gets hot over there, enduring the west sun’s heat bouncing off the brick wall of the house. Yet the switchgrass has grown beautifully.
I recently pulled some starts & planted them at the front entrance where I’d previous planted pampass grass.
Although pampass grass is considered invasive in other places, it didn’t stand a chance here and died promptly. But this Alamo Switchgrass will be beautiful!
An extra bonus is the fact that although I use this native grass as a pretty ornamental grass in my landscaping, Alamo Switchgrass is also a forage plant.
It’s typically not a good idea to feed your landscaping trimmings to your animals. Many innocent-sounding plants are actually toxic to livestock! But this switchgrass is actually a forage.
So any time I trim it the calves thank me profusely! Beautiful plant, tasty treat – win/win!
Vigorously-Growing Mint, Properly Contained!
And of course in this same west-facing flowerbed I’ve planted mint. Now mint is a powerhouse by itself but it can be invasive.
I didn’t want it to get away from me & invade the rest of the bed. So I made a Mint Planting to confine it and make it play nice in the landscaping.
It’s grown beautifully & blooms constantly! And like the switchgrass it’s completely on its own. I don’t water or pamper it in any way.
Relocating Native Flowering Plants
I’ve also been known to plant native pretties in this ‘flower bed’ of mine.
We have a plant (ie: WEED) called Bitter Sneezeweed. An ugly name for a beautiful flower! It grows wild in our pastures.
It’s an inedible weed for the cows, but a beautifully-flowering workhorse in the landscape.
Many years I’ll transplant some from the pasture to my flowerbed. It blooms cheery yellow even during the oppressively hot summer temps of NE Texas. Even during yet another drought and with no additional care from me, it blooms beautifully all season long.
When I want these flowers in the beds I simply walk to the pasture and dig up another flowering plant to beautify our landscape.
And sunflowers are a favorite of mine too. There are bushy native sunflowers that constantly bloom sunflowers all summer long. Or sometimes I plant a Mammoth sunflower that produces the one huge sunflower that I use to harvest all the seeds.
The beauty of sunflowers is that sunflower is my favorite flower. And yellow is a HAPPY color! Plus our honeybees love them and the thrive even with no irrigation water from me.
And I plant them on the west side of our chicken coop. Shade for the chickens, food for the bees and eye candy for me. Gotta love it!
Several years ago a bird landed on the shepherd’s hook and, uuuhhhh, deposited a seed that started to grow.
I didn’t know what it was so I tried to pull it up as a weed. But I didn’t get the root. So it grew back.
By the time I tried to pull it up again it had a thin woody stem so it was even harder to pull up, so I left it to see what it would grow into.
It was a beautyberry bush. In the spring it flowers and our honeybees love it. Then tiny green berry clusters form, and they turn bright purple in late summer.
There’s even evidence that you can use the leaves as a mosquito repellent. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding beautyberry:
“Compounds from this plant show potential as repellents against mosquitoes and, now, some ticks.”
And once again, no water from me except the natural rainfall that it receives. Pretty, bee friendly and hearty with a big helping of insect repellent? YES PLEASE!
Purchased Fuss-Free Flowers
I also use some standard hearty plants such as cheery yellow Daylilies and beautiful aromatic evergreen Rosemary. These tend to be fuss-free plants that love to grow no matter what.
The Rosemary is also a delicious addition as an ingredient in our favorite Beer Bread and also used in our homemade soap that we like to give as homemade gifts.
Add to that the fact that it’s evergreen and it totals up to a winner. I love to be able to look out & see something green during the dreary winter months.
Bulbs Shared From Other Gardeners
Bulbs are a nice way to add beauty to your landscape. These are my grandmothers Iris bulbs and they’re absolutely beautiful.
Plus, when I see their beautiful delicate blooms I smile remembering my grandma. So that’s TWO kinds of beauty in one plant – one for the eye, one for the heart!
And my mom shared with me several of her daffodil bulbs. I planted a line of them along each side of our driveway at our gate entrance.
What a beautiful welcome for our guests. AND they’re the very first things to peek a little color after a long, dreary winter.
I love these, thanks mom!
So there ya go, a short list of some beautiful yet very hardy plants I’ve been able to get to thrive even in our Botanical Hole Of Death.
And many of these plants were FREE – either dug up from our own property or shared from the abundance of other’s gardens.
Free is in our budget for sure! What are your favorite ‘Really Wants To Live’ plants to utilize in your landscape?
Links Included In This Post:
- Picture-Tour Of Our Beautiful 1800’s Barn
- Relocating Tree Seedlings For FREE Homestead Trees
- Planting An Edible Landscape
- Keeping A Mint Planting Contained
- Rosemary-Cheddar Beer Bread Recipe
- Homemade Soap – Lavender/Rosemary
My Favorite Garden Hacks
- Easy Garden Planning Spreadsheet
- Getting A Jump: Planting An Indoor Greenhouse
- Repurposed Cardboard Seed-Starting Pots
- 3-Sister’s Garden – The Original Companion Planting
- Planting A Large Galvanized Trough
- Tricking Birds AWAY From Your Strawberry Plants
- Easy Compost For A Healthy Garden
- Propping Tender Seedlings
- Cheap (or FREE) Wood Mulch For The Garden
- Using Vining Plants For Living Mulch
- Homestead Hack: Remember Where You Planted Seeds
- How Vegetable Gardening Can Change Your Life!
- Keeping Potted Plants Watered
- Planting A Blueberry Bush In Galvanized Tub
- Stevia – Growing Your Own Sweetener!
- How I Use EcoBricks In The Garden
- Compost Old Confidential Documents
- Repurposing A Coffee Can For Deep-Soak Watering
- How Leaves Benefit Your Garden
- My Simple, Zero-Waste Herb Drying Setup
- How To Grow Fresh Salad Greens In All Seasons
- The Lazy Gardener’s Plant List – Plant Once, Eat For Years!
MORE Gardening Posts
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I’ve got that sneezeweed in my pastures also. As hard as I try to eliminate it I just can’t see transplanting it. But if it works for y’all then it’s good.
Loved reading your post! We have a botanical Hole of Death in our high desert rocky soil, too. It’s our front yard! I’m growing herbs out there, now…the ones that ‘want’ to grow—like you said! I’ve also managed to get some wild plants from the area to grow there too. We’re still working on it, though!
Good idea to use what is already thriving in your landscape. Have you tried lantana or four o’clock sorry cannas? I’ve had great success with those in our NE TX landscape and the deer leave them along. Irises too. Good luck with finding more!
I do have some Four O’Clocks against this same west wall Cecilia, I forgot to mention them. They’re pretty scrappy as well, growing without any assistance from me. I also have my grandmother’s Iris bulbs and they’re beautiful, and my mother’s daddodil bulbs planted along the driveway. It seems bulbs can be really scrappy plants too, even in our botanical hole of death. I’ve planted Lantana a couple of times but I just can’t get it to survive. ~TxH~
Cheap is nice but Free is Better. :}
Calves must think it’s a holiday with the fresh feast they are having.
The “Stella de Oro” daylilies I think will grown in any type of soil.
Love your Rosemary you have growing there. It’s so big and lush and it has such pretty blooms.
Now, if you want to plant grass seed, I would suggest Buffalo Grass. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/turf/publications/buffalo.html
I have 3 rosemary bushes Colleen, one is over 3-ft tall. I absolutely love it! I’ve planted Buffalo grass before, I was told that Buffalo grass grows thick but stays relatively short. Although the seed was shockingly expensive I wanted to plant it along my driveway since that’s a lot of mowing that we could forego if we could plant something that would grow easily yet stay short and be non-toxic and edible by the cows. Unfortunately that seeding was a bust and no Buffalo grass grew after seeding the area. It could have very well been operator error, maybe we didn’t prepare the soil properly or maybe the weather turned at the wrong time – who knows? I’ve thought about planting that long driveway strip in native flowering plants and letting it go natural but RancherMan doesn’t like the unkempt look of that. Still thinking of solutions… ~TxH~