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The factors affecting plant growth in coastal regions are somewhat different to those encountered inland. Generally it is the wind which causes most damage. Near the shore the wind is laden with salt, as a result of which plants suffer not only from the force of the wind but also from the salt which it deposits on the leaves and stems. Gardens a short distance from the beach are not affected to the same degree, as the salt in the air is much less, and those a few hundred metres from high water mark are unlikely to suffer at all from salt on the foliage.
There is not much that can be done to reduce salt damage of this kind except to water the plants well in order to wash the salt off the leaves and to leach it out of the soil. Fortunately there are some plants which are salt-tolerant and can therefore be grown near the beach.
For plants to thrive, whether at the coast or inland, they must have their roots in good soil. Many plants in seaside gardens look pathetic not because of the force of the wind or salt in the atmosphere but because the soil is lacking in fertility or is too alkaline.
The application of artificial fertilisers is not the answer to this problem because beach sand lacks humus, and, unless plenty of it is dug in before planting, and generous dressings given each year thereafter, growth is likely to be disappointing.
Compost, peat and
stable litter make a tremendous difference to the growth and health of plants.
Soil to which humus has been added is more fertile, more retentive of' moisture and less likely to heat up quickly than poor sandy soil without humus. Furthermore there will be a lower proportion of injurious salts in it. For these reasons coastal gardeners should make a point of improving the soil properly before any planting is undertaken.
Should wind blow the sand over newly planted ground covers near the shore, erect a low barrier of wire-mesh threaded with brushwood to protect them until they are established. Generally also, in gardens on the sea front it is a good idea to have a barrier of shrubs to shelter the smaller plants which might otherwise become covered with sand.