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Coal Hole Planting

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Question from Anne Gatton


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We have demolished an old North East facing Coal hole, there is some residue of coal dust in the soil so I will cover with 4" of topsoil and some compost but this is the maximum the area will take, will this restrict what I can plant as I have no idea how coal affects the soil balance.
I would like a flowering shrub maybe up to 15 feet high, big enough to hang some bird feeders but cannot plant a small tree as it is within 10 meters of the railway boundary.
Many thanks in advance

  • Views: 635
  • Replies: 1
  • Posted: Wed. 7th April 2010 19:04

New bed

Reply from Anna Taylor

Dear Anne,

I am not sure either what the affect coal dust would have on soil - I know that coal ash (after burning) is not good for soil, unlike wood ash. It contains all sorts of chemicals that can both leech into the soil and deplete the soil of nutrients.

Have you taken a soil test in the area to see the pH ?

If in any doubt I would start by trying to remove as much dust as possible, and maybe a few inches of the topsoil and improving the soil well. Mixing well rotted horse muck, mushroom compost and / or home compost will improve the soil structure and add some nutrient. Also a bone meal added to the soil before planting will give further feed to what is likely to be a very thin, dry and depleted soil. Dig over the area well, don't just add to the surface, otherwise the roots of your new plant will struggle to establish and look for water.

I would then go for a shrub that is tough and reliable - I assume it doesn't need to be evergreen, and could cope with less than favourable growing conditions.

I think the best range of flowering shrubs can be Viburnums, they are strong, healthy and beautiful flowering,

V. x bodnantense or V. x carlcephalum are two of my favourites.

There are also lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) and buddleja davidiis that grow hard and well next to railways traditionally and would take the weight of feeders.

Hope this helps,

Anna Taylor

  • Posted: Thu. 15th April 2010 18:50