Climate is a factor every gardener needs to consider. From sunlight to rainfall, from plant hardiness to soil conditions, working with climate can determine whether the results of your gardening season will be blasé or blooming.
As lovely as living close to the ocean can be, coastal gardens present several climate-related challenges, the main ones being wind, salt, and sandy soil. The secret to success is to know how you should compensate for the particular conditions of your seaside location.
In a coastal garden environment, the elements hold sway. For success, it’s important to use plant species adapted to the environment of the coast. Windier conditions require low-lying, sturdy plants that can take the punishment. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to give up beautiful visual displays. Some good coastal plants include grasses, cardoons, the common rue, California poppies, phlox, bayberries, sea lavender, salt spray roses, and daisies. Look at other coastal gardens in your area. This will be one of your best sources of information on which species of plants and trees will do well.
The common denominator of coastal garden plant species is their low height. The winds are simply too strong for any tall plant to endure.
In fact, wind is the primary factor in a coastal garden. On the downside, it can simply be too strong for less hardy species, and it also brings salt in from the sea that can make your gardening environment more acidic. It will also tend to churn and erode your soil, aggravating already sandy conditions. On the upside, the wind prevents coastal gardens from enduring the extreme temperature changes experienced inland. You get the best of both worlds: brilliant sun and a cooling wind to maintain the temperature. As a result, the species that you plant should be lush, and should require only simple maintenance such as regular watering and pruning.
Applying these strategies will lessen the impact of a coastal wind on your garden:
· Know your wind direction. Plan protection accordingly.
· Group species in small bunches (known as cluster planting). This will create strong focal points in the garden while providing protection.
· Plant in naturally sheltered areas such as rock crevices or close to your home.
· If planting a coast-tolerant tree, stake it for at least two years so that its root system will be firmly established. This will prevent toppling thereafter.
· Erect fences or sturdy trellises with spaces that allow airflow. Solid fences create a buffeting effect that will amplify the strength of the wind. Erect a fence in which the air is broken up and dispersed. This can be accomplished by putting holes in solid fencing or by staggering planks of various heights.
· You can also break up the wind with hedging. If you do this, wrap it in a protective material such as burlap over the winter.
The second area that needs your attention is the soil, which will be primarily sandy. This is easily remedied by the addition of compost or other organic matter in the spring. This addition will also allow for better moisture retention at the root level.
Another great option for coastal regions is container gardening. You can place containers in areas that are well protected from the wind and you can use a standard potting mix that will provide adequate nutrition for your plants. Container gardening will also allow you to grow a greater variety of species. Annuals are always an option but you can also take advantage of perennials which, although not adaptive to the coast, will do well in a container situation over the summer.
Design is also an area where a coastal garden can shine. Given the proximity to the sea and the fact that you will usually have a lot of cluster planting, it’s a good idea to make your garden functional as well as ornamental. For example, you can take portions of the garden that you won’t be planting in and use them for decks or sitting areas.
The coast also offers an embarrassment of riches in terms of raw materials to use in the garden. You will have ready access to cobbles and shingle stones for pathways; retrieved wood for rustic fencing; and fun items such as shells, large rocks, and old netting for decorating.
When you work with your coastal environment, it will work for you. You can then have the best of both worlds: a beautiful garden and an ocean view.