I just removed an old shed from my property. It had a base made of layers as following:
-first layer: gravel
-second layer: crushed stone
-third layer: precast concrete slabs
enter image description here

It din not have the landscape fabric and the soil mixed with some crushing stone. The original soil in my yard is closer to clay. After I carefully removed the what I could as crushed stone I started separating the gravel from the mix of soil and crushed stone. The result was two heaps one of crushed stone which I plan to reuse for building a path and another of this mix between crushed stone and the finer particles (almost sandy) of the crushed stone.
I was wondering if there is any way to use this as a base for some rocky garden or something of this sort. I live in Toronto and I often go to visit Edwards' garden where I can see hen and chickens or something similar planted in a sort of wall made from sand and ...bottle bottoms like below
enter image description here

I love this arrangements a lot and I wold like to be able to build something like this in my garden enter image description here

-can I reuse the soil mentioned above to plant something like this?
-are these (chicken and hens) perennials going to survive the harsh weather of Toronto (Canada)? I have seen then in Edwards Garden for years but I have not followed their evolution closely to see if they are actually struggling or thriving...

Edit: here you can see what the soil that I want to reuse looks like (last picture of the three showing soils and limestone crush or screed)

3 Answers 3


Absolutely you can reuse the soil. It might not be the most suitable for some purposes but it's far from useless. It probably will be lighter on nutrients than most soils, but that can be fixed with composts and fertilizers.

Or you could do something like you mentioned above and just plant it with plants that are well adapted to stoney low-nutrient soils. Hens and chicks are one good example of that, they thrive quite well in rocky soils. Columbines also grow quite well in stoney soil, I've seen more than a few growing wild clinging to shale cliffs with less than a spoonful of soil to grow from. From personal experience I know both of these grow and thrive quite well straight across Lake Ontario here in New York and winter is just as cold on our side as it is on yours, so they'll do fine.


You absolutely can reuse this soil - you just have to pick a strategy.

Certain plants like rocky soils - perhaps you own one or want to own one.
I don't know about canada, but we have a spice plant here called cilantron that will only grow through the cracks in the driveway. This type of soil is great for making a bed for these types of plants.

I often mix in sub par soil with my composted humus. I feel like this gives the finished product a more realistic texture, some clays and rocks are good for plant development.

As your question hinted at, this stuff is perfect for use as backfill. There are hundreds of different backyard projects that require a few yards of 'any' quality soil, from raised beds to burms to those beautiful flower walls you showed. If your heap is small you can start an herb spiral. Pile it all up and top it off with higher quality soil and rocks for the spiral design.

Good luck!


Interesting idea with the spiral or with adding some variation to my otherwise flat garden. I am still in the process of correctly sloping the backyard, the previous owner created a water problem with unwisely adding land where he was not supposed to...

I have asked the same question on another forum and the only answer that I received was saying that if this is lime screening this might actually change the PH of the soil. I have had another heap of soil, much richer in screening covered by a plastic foil in one of the corners of my yard. It sat there for the entire winter and a few days ago I had to remove it. To my surprise in some areas small plants grew under the plastic foil! They were thriving there, well protected and with enough humidity to keep them well. So I do not know what to say about this soil. I will take some pictures today and I will post them here and on the other forum as requested.... maybe you can form a clearer opinion this way

regarding that wall....not sure if this is doable in regular backyard. Mine is facing south. If I want a wall like that I will need to find a way to build it next to my fence,it does not make sense to have it anywhere else but this will create space between the wall itself and the fence which can not be used AND the side of the wall that the viewer can see will face North (the south side will face the fence) I can not see anything else other than problems in this sort of arrangement.

You did not say if you know if these "Hen and chickens" would survive in our climate... I this I will go to Edwards' gardens anyway to see how those plants are doing, they have been on that wall for 4-5 years no and I am not sure if they did well there...

thanks a lot!

  • I really do not know whether they will survive, but reviewing a neighboring garden is a great idea! Embedded stones can moderate temperatures of severe winters, I'm sure you will also want to block any prevailing winds. Whether the wall faces south or north will make a very big difference in amount of sunlight in the winter, at your latitude. I applaud your efforts in looking at the entire design of the property when you think about solutions. I should mention that your 'answer' should actually be a comment, in that it doesn't answer your own question just provides more information.
    – Alex
    May 13, 2015 at 20:54
  • I wrote the message and it was too late when I realized that it is too long for the comment section ...
    – MiniMe
    May 14, 2015 at 3:31

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