Life at the beach is, well, salty

You always wanted a house on the beach and now, here you are. Hot sun, ocean views, salty breezes, sandy soil. Uh oh, sandy soil. Salty sandy soil.

Hey, it’s okay. You have a condo, and you can plant anything you want in torleyheader062314pots on the balcony. Oh, you have a house and a yard? Well then, let’s talk.

First, how to we meet the challenge of a salty breeze? I am happy to say that there are many, many options. Some involve fencing, so let’s leave those out of the picture for now and concentrate on plantings. What we  want, of course, is some sort of barrier between the salty breeze and our more delicate plants.

There are tons of options. Malay dwarf bamboo is a lovely densely leaved bamboo of 3 to 5 meters (10 to 17 feet) and is non-running. It makes a fantastic hedge to protect other plantings.  Foliage is variegated which adds to eye appeal. But, if you want something more colorful, bougainvillea is also salt tolerant and makes a fine protective planting. Mix it with the faster growing bamboo and remove the bamboo later if you like or plant the bamboo on the outer edge of the hedge and the bougainvillea inside.

Oh yes, remember that a hedge of anything has to be several rows of plants, not just a single row. Plan for at least two rows (three is definitely better) with about 85 centimeters (3 feet) between the rows.

If you prefer a windscreen of pines, there are many to choose from and they are usually available at local viveros. Constant trimming will keep them a manageable size.

Now that things are screened, what about color? Your bougainvillea is blooming, but you want more. So what will work in that sandy slightly salty soil? Let’s start with lantana, lots of colors to choose from, a nice herbal scent, and an added plus, no leaf cutter ants. Trim it for a low shrub or let it grow up to a meter or more (over 3 feet) depending on location. Rosa rugose, the beach rose, and kalanchoe are both good choices for color in sandy soil. Kalanchoe has the added advantage of being a succulent with good moisture retention during the dry season. Portulaca is another excellent choice for the areas where you want something with low growth and lots of flowers.

How about scent? The jasmine family proves wonderful fragrance to any garden and is tolerant of salty air. Sadly it is a favorite of leaf cutters, but I am told they seem less of a pest in sandy soils.

So that is just a brief “what to do” for beach areas, all sparked by a reader’s question (Thanks to Kimberly Toberman, and happy gardening.)

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