Gardening by the Sea

Maybe you’ve always dreamed about that quaint little home by the ocean, or maybe you already live in that quaint little house. Living by the sea is a dream that many of us hold, but if you also love to garden, your lovely little home may come to seem like the house from The Amityville Horror. Okay, so it won’t be that dramatic, but trying to create a garden by the ocean can create a lot of challenges for gardeners. Being prepared for those challenges and choosing the right plants can be the difference between a lush paradise and the ghosts of gardens past.












Identify your Enemies

The biggest problem that seaside gardeners experience is the high volume of salt that exists in the soil from salt spray brought by the ocean. Salt inhibits plants from drawing in the moisture that they need. Salt spray may also cover your plant’s leaves, causing an even quicker drying out. If you are very close to the ocean, the soil on your property may also have a high content of nutrient-poor sand. The climate can also produce harsh winds and heat. Together, these conditions make growing most inland plants extremely difficult or impossible. Make sure you check your soil for these conditions before planting anything in your garden.

Take on the Challenge

The best way to grow a beautiful seaside garden is to work with nature by growing hardy plants that can withstand salt, sand and harsh climates, but if you must have more sensitive plants in your garden, install some wind breakers to protect them. You can create a wind breaker with fencing, retainer walls or a barrier of salt-tolerant shrubs and trees, situated closest to the sea. In coastal areas, winds and storms also become much stronger in the winter. Be sure to provide shelter for your more sensitive plants.

Some plants have adapted to seaside conditions and do quite well in sandy, salty soils with harsh weather. Grey or silver plants like lamb’s ear and Russian sage are protected by hairy leaves which conserve moisture and act as a barrier to salt spray. Hydrangeas and roses also do well in salty conditions. Salt spray can carry micronutrients which act as a rich foliar feeder for hydrangeas, as long as they are kept well watered. The harsh winds and salt spray of seaside climates combine to suppress fungal diseases, making sun-loving roses very happy. Zinnias, salvias, coreopsis and many herbs also love the bright sun that seaside climates provide. All sedums generally do well in harsh conditions due to their moisture-storing leaves, low growth which helps them to withstand winds and waxy leaves which also serve as a barrier to salt. Do some research to find plants that grow naturally in your area. Many grasses, groundcovers, evergreens and annuals do well in a seaside garden, providing beautiful structure and color.

Make sure to water your plants religiously and provide consistent nutrients to plants in sandy soil. Use compost and an organic fertilizer such as Grower's Secret 521, fortified with Grower’s Secret Pro which activates cellular pathways to allow for more nutrient absorption, water retention, and fertilizer uptake.

Ocean Friendly Gardening

Our oceans are precious and teaming with life. Do your part to keep them clean of pollution that could be brought in by your garden through use of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, soil and fossil fuels or debris from lawnmowers and cars. Keep your garden clean and always use organic products. Plant native species to promote biodiversity and to retain and filter rainwater runoff. You may also want to employ the use of a rain barrel to catch rain water for use in your seaside garden.

Seaside gardens can be a big challenge, but it is a challenge that can be overcome. With a little care and planning, your little house of horrors by the sea can be that quaint little house by the sea, with a lush and beautiful garden.

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