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Hope some of you proper gardeners can help me here,

Im helping a friend re plant a very narrow long border in front of their house ( 3 ft x 24 ft) - they are adamant they want Lavender pretty much through the whooe bed. I am ripping my hair out because a soil test said the soil was 4.5 so pretty Acid and its also abit dense - im a begginer so unsure but i would say loamy/clay.

My basic understanding is that this is the WOST type of combo for Lavender, ive tried to read up on sharp sand but everyone seems to be saying something contradictory about it - ive come to the conclusion that digging in a little seashell for the first few inches and then maybe some grit but i feel like this is just a losing battle - could someone put me right? I cannot bring them round to anything other than lavender apart from heathers at the front which like acid so im now in a double bind!

Oh just seen this is in the wrong section i will re post plse delete Mod , thanks


dig in lots of mushroom compost and lots of coarse grit. that should break it up, make it alkaline, and free draining, but moisture retentive.

Then plant your lavender.


I wouldn't worry about sections Rococo



Hi Rococo, you're right, lavender likes poor, stony, gritty, dry soil in a hot spot.  It will not do well if it has wet feet.  You could add grit and sand to the soil but I've found that nature will always have her way and you will be fighting a losing battle.  You might be better trying to convince them to use heathers instead - show them this discussion if all else fails! 


Oh no lol ive put this in problems section too!

Im presuming it will take ALOT of mushroom compost and grit? Other issues ( as if there arnt enough already) is a tight budget and time period, plus im unsure if i can plant into a freshly composted and gritted soil? he wants me to plant before winter sets in. Its definitely not proper clay soil as it hasnt cracked atall through the summer but it does hold water.

Rococo, simply put,  

you can't plant lavendar there.  

Your friend needs to accept this basic fact.  The soil is too acid, too wet and lavendars planted there will die in a matter of months if not weeks.  If budget is tight this is even more of a reason not to waste money.  

Your friend needs to think again



this is my conclusion - as i have a bad back and im a begginer im a line of least resistance type when it comes to gardening 

I do think i may have got the soil type wrong it does go into a ball when wet but doesnt have much 'give' to stretch which made me think loam - but there is still the acid issue.

The alternative i guess as its so shallow in depth is to dig out half a foot or so and put in new soil sort of raise bed without the raising?

Is that madness?! 


Lavendars NEED light, free draining alkaline or neutral soil.  It's a long border to dig in mushroom compost, etc. that will only slightly improve comditions.  You need a lot of compost.  

I think it is madness to grow lavendar there....the wetness will simply engulf the area again.  You are working against all the natural comditions to,provide something that prob won't look right anyway.  

You can raise the bed and do all sorts......costing money.  I think ferns will look better there

Is loam even too wet? Its def not full clay - as it doesnt crack in the sun its just feels abit 'boggy'  That said trying to get a soil from 4.4/5.0 to 7.0 plus is enough to contend with in the first place.

Can anyone suggest a nice smelly alternative ? Ive already suggested Heathers but they arnt that smelly, i was thinking maybe Echinacea


Do not add sand or compost - just grit. Sand holds water and stays damp and so does compost and you are also feeding the soil. Just add in lots of grit (pea gravel is great). I have Lavender (Hidcote) on a south facing slope with really compacted clay soil and even with the very wet winter last year, they are totally fine.

But what PH is your soil blairs? his is 4.5/5.0


Its TOO ACID.  Loam is just a name for good sandy loam is a good sandy type soil, clay loam is a good clay type soil.  

I think it's too wet for heathers too.  They like it drier. 

My advice is not to grow lavendars.  I have no doubt at all....if you contact the forum again in a few months it will be to say the lavendars have died.

The very wise maxim with the soil and conditions you have.  You are tryIng to work against them.  What is the point of that?  Plenty of advice to help you do that but grow something else.

I want a bed of azaleas but my soil won't allow that. So I don't grow them in my garden.??????

Echinacas?  Noooooooooo.  Rudbeckia Goldsturn is a brilliant yellow perennial that will grow there as will astilbes. Astrantias, etc.

Azalas, dwarf rhododendrons, kalmias, etc. will grow there. Lithodora is a low cascading evergreen with brilliant blue flowers in spring and early summer and will love it there too.  

Plenty of better options



I agree with you Verdum - its my client/friend/pain in the butt who i dont want to give 'sad face' lol

You are all a brilliant help - its so nice getting into gardening and seeing how helpful people are, its like a little gang! Im taking up a Horticulture course so hopefully i will be asking less noobish questions in future... Rx


You are welcome.  Your questions are absolutely fine.  

Explain to your friend though that if he plants the right things in the right soil he will have happy thriving plants.  Plant the wrong things and they will simply look miserable and awful


Eh - he knows this, he has actually gardened much longer than me. I think he was suprised at how acid the soil was, and i have proffessional pride and dont want to wack in something that looks half dead in 6 months - of course we could dig in some good quality gravel and hope for the best but its his money not mine.


I will break it to him gently

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