Hardcore Landscaping: How to Plant in Rubble

We all know that not all gardens are created equally! Very few gardeners are blessed with fertile soil – most will be wondering how to plant in rubble, gravel or sand.

Rather than taking your waste to landfill, why not use it as a base to grow a resilient, low maintenance and biodiverse garden!

Do we really need rich, fertile soil to garden on?

No! While fertile soil is necessary for growing some plants, like dahlias and vegetables, these soils tend to produce overfed plants that struggle to survive periods of drought and require constant watering.

Rich, fertile soils also provide a perfect home for weeds, and create a cycle of maintenance-intensive gardening.

Switching to growing in sand or gravel can make it harder for weeds to establish, and reduce the vigour of those that do.

Poorer soils produce shorter, sturdier and more resilient drought-tolerant plants, especially for perennials such as salvias, achillea and echinacea. These, along with many other plants, do not enjoy sitting in wet ground over winter with their roots waterlogged. Sand, gravel and even rubble will improve drainage and offer a new way of gardening in a changing climate.

How to Plant in Rubble
Salvia Nemorosa

While plants may grow more slowly in these poorer soils, they require far less maintenance. They can survive without being watered or weeded regularly.

Create your own Rubble Garden


Use gravel, crushed brick or concrete and sharp sand – try to recycle materials that you already have to hand.

When and How to Plant

Planting in the autumn will give your new plants time to settle into their new habitat. Use bare-root plants, as this helps them adapt to their soil and send out deep roots.

Give the plants an initial long soaking and then leave them.

A high planting density is recommended – 6 to 10 plants per square metre.

What to Plant

  • Grasses: Stipa tenuissima, Sesleria autumnalis, Stipa gigantea

Try to choose plants that will flower at different times of the year to give you a longer season of colour.

  • May/June Flowering: Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Achillea Terracotta‘, Lychnis coronaria, Calamintha nepeta ‘Walkers Low
  • July/August Flowering: Eryngium ‘Big Blue‘, Echinacea pallida, Erigeron karvinskianus, Verbena bonariensis, Aster frikartii ‘Monch‘, Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder
  • September/October Flowering: Aster ‘Little Carlow‘, Salvia ‘Amistad‘, Guara Lindheimeri

Planting bulbs can give you a succession of colour from February up until May. Plant ‘Crocus tommasinianus, Narcissus ‘Ice Follies‘, Tulip ‘Negrita’, Tulip ‘Ballerina’, Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ or Allium ‘Globemaster’.

How to Plant in Rubble
Echinacea Pallida
Aster Frikartii ‘Monch’
Guara Lindheimeri

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