Help for the Home Gardener from the CCMG Help Desk
“I am thinking about what to plant in a strip along our concrete driveway and a fence line. I am wondering about a cactus garden. There is no watering source, other than by hand, which I am fine with and actually enjoy. Do you have any suggestions on types of cactus or plants? If cacti, I was thinking of ones that are not too spiny as I have small children as neighbors.”
CCMG Help Desk's Response:
Thank you for contacting the CCMG Help Desk about what to plant along your fence. It is difficult to give you specific suggestions without knowing what kind of sun exposure that strip gets. Walnut Creek gets quite warm in the summer and many plants that generally do well in full sun might not do as well between a fence and a concrete patio or driveway because both the fence and the concrete can increase the heat.
You also need to be careful about drainage, especially for succulents. Many succulent gardeners create a small mound (8-12” high) to plant the succulents on to assure good drainage. In your case, maybe that mound would be parallel to the fence. The reason: the soil in many parts of Contra Costa is clay, which does not offer good drainage, making it difficult to grow succulents in the ground. Many succulents grow well in containers where it's easier to give them a better soil mix and control the water. Although most succulents are drought-tolerant, prolonged periods without water may cause their leaves to lose color, shrivel or drop. Give plants just enough water to keep them plump and attractive. You might consider planters (maybe rectangular to fit the space). This could be a solution for you to consider.
Other possibilities for the space would be some of the drought-resistant grasses, perennials or smaller shrubs, either planted in the ground or in containers. Some suggestions for these include lavender, salvia (such as Salvia greggii--autumn sage), Origanum, Santolina, or “pink muhly”--a grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris).
Contra Costa Master Gardeners Help Desk
Editor's Note: The Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523.
We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and we are on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/