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We have a gravel strip close which I would love to make more colorful. It is located in a place with morning sun, close to a wall of a house. Also there is not much soil in between the stones, but dandelion and blackberries are thriving.

I know that in the wild, poppies, straw flowers etc. would grow on similar locations. Is there a way of helping flowers to grow there without removing the gravel first?

So far I followed a recipe I heard from various old people:

  • I tried 2nd last year scattering a mixture of "selected wild flower seeds" from a discounter with sand and compost on top, so that I was able rinse it in the gaps between the stones. Interestingly, not a single plant appeared. Under dry conditions I watered the gravel strip once a week.
  • Last year, I tried again with expensive seeds, and I let them pre-germinate a bit, before creating the above mentioned mixture and distributing it on top of the gravel, and rinsing it in. Again a complete failure.

Does anybody have a different suggestion?

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  • Is there landscape fabric underneath the stones?
    – Jurp
    Apr 15 at 20:16
  • No fabric. It is a gravel layer of 10 to 20cm thickness, and relatively compact clay underneath. The gravel layer becomes increasingly more sandy on the bottom.
    – B--rian
    Apr 15 at 20:25
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    Sounds like you could have a perched water table due to disparate pore sizes between the gravel/sand and clay. My guess is that it's also a very compacted soil (which is fine for dandelions but not a lot of non-weeds) because of the weight of the gravel. - especially if people have walked on the gravel over the years since it was installed.
    – Jurp
    Apr 16 at 1:18
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I think a good strategy for you would be to forget about sowing seeds directly into the gravel but instead sowing them into containers. You could also create a raised bed either directly on the gravel strip or slightly raised above it. Containers would also allow you some flexibility in your plantings by, for example, allowing you to, say, plant a cold-season flower like pansies or wallflower and then replace them with a warm-season flower like calendula or marigold. You could also, of course, skip the seed-sowing entirely and use transplants from a nursery. Finally, both containers and raised beds would also allow you to plant some vegetables if you'd like - perhaps a cucumber growing up a trellis or a tomato in a large pot and a pepper/chilli in a smaller pot.

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