Soil Questions from Sunnyvale

Hi. My wife and I have freed up an unused 30’ x 13’ strip of ground between the side of our house and the street. (We live on a corner.) We’d like to plant cactus and xeriscape this area as we aren’t very good about watering and maintenance.

Could you suggest a book or online resource for us to get some basic understanding of what would be involved? Our immediate problem is to acquire about five cubic yards of fill to bring up an unwanted low patch. A local company can provide us with topsoil having a pH of 7.3 for fill, but I wouldn’t want to start off with an overly basic soil if most cacti won’t like it.


– Eric, Sunnyvale


We mix a fast draining cactus soil (which we do sell in bulk). Cactus and succulents in the Bay Area need the extra drainage to be able to handle our winter rains. Standard soils will stay too wet through the winter and the plants will rot. It is possible to start with the fill and amend it by adding in 50% lava, and depending on the quality of the soil that might work. In general, the soil should be neutral to slightly acidic, so the pH is a bit high.

We recommend Debra Lee Baldwin’s Designing with Succulents, which we do carry at the store.



Thank you very much for the info. It will save us from making a big mistake by raising the ground level first without thinking this through.

– Eric

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