As a Native to the Bay Area and a business owner on the Peninsula for almost 30 years, I have seen many changes. Our population has grown and we now see more apartment complexes sprouting up in just about every city. Our green/garden areas are diminishing as living complexes and parking areas increase.
The actual soil area for rain water to actually filter down and replenish our aquifers is becoming more and more limited. Concrete and asphalt streets and sidewalks re-direct our water to sewer lines that take any rain water we do receive and discharges it to the Bay.
Our urban/suburban gardens are almost entirely receiving their water from artificial watering through our irrigation systems.
As we continue to live through “the drought”, it has become a part of our lives. No longer are we waiting for “One good Rainy winter” to recover from the drought. Drought is here and I do not know of any source claiming that we will be out of a state of drought with one or two wet winters.
After so many years of minimal rain water during our winter months, we are starting to see our mature trees suffering and/or dying. Even with our native Oak trees which can handle drought conditions we are seeing diseases and viruses attack our plants as well. Year after year we see more diseases attacking our ornamental plantings, native and non-native.
The heading of this blog is “Soil Health” and not “Plant health”. The reason for this is our plants are struggling not only due to the drought conditions but our soil has been stripped of the natural occurring nutrients which plants require for health and growth.
Each week hordes of local gardeners blow all the leaves from our planting beds and throw them away. Even if mulch is installed in the planting beds, each week little by little even the mulch is blown and thrown away. Our clay soil becomes compacted and hard as a rock, our plants are left wanting for nutrients and water. The soil is so compacted minimum water is able to penetrate down to the root zone of the plants/trees.
Our precious water runs off and out of the planters onto our driveways and down into the gutters in our streets. A small percentage of water actually benefits our plants.
When the plants look yellow or do not show signs of new growth a synthetic fertilizer is applied. This is just a bandage. Some results may be seen but after so many years of man-made
fertilizers being applied to our soils all our beneficial mycorrhiza has been killed off and our plants are left to fend for themselves.
Mycorrhiza is part of the ecosystem that plants require to thrive in the soil. The soil is not just a place for plants to send out stabilizing roots to keep them from falling over. Soil is the underground world that provides food, water and essential life for all our plants and trees.
Although, this information has been depressing there is a way to solve these problems brought on by years of ignorance and abuse on our urban garden soils.
Masterpiece Gardens is actively working to put back in what has been either removed or killed off over the past decades.
We offer soil inoculation and then soil maintenance for client’s gardens. We have to start with our soils before we can work on our sickly plants.
All natural and organic. No man-made synthetic fertilizers.
We are installing the following products to “take our soils” back!
2) Holganix Mycorrhiza
3) Arbor mulch
1) Biochar: https://pacificbiochar.com/biochar-compost/
Adding biochar, a fine-grained charcoal, to garden soil replenishes nutrients, retains moisture and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
2) Holganix: https://www.holganix.com/bio-800-tree-shrub
Holganix Bio 800+ Tree and Shrub recreates this natural, forest soil environment for your trees and shrubs by building up the soil microbes in and around your landscaping, which in turn promotes root development and nutrient uptake.
3) Arbor Mulch: https://research.libraries.wsu.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2376/5262/FS160E.pdf?sequence=2
Arbor mulch comes from our local tree companies. When they prune and chip the branches and leaves, we recycle this material and place it back into our ecosystem to help the very gardens the arbor mulch came from.
The chips from the Tree companies are taken and put through another grinding machine. This helps equalize the size of the mulch to a more uniform size and will help the decomposition process begin much sooner.
A mulch layer not only helps re-build our soils but helps prevent weed germination and one very important benefit is the conservation of water in our planting beds.
The mulch is being used to improve plant health and not fill our landfills.
Our goal is to bring back our rich natural soils, which in turn will help our plants and trees to flourish. This is not only for beatification but for our own health, air-filtration and oxygen.
With our 3-tier system we can improve our soils within a few months but this is an on-going treatment. It is not a one and done process.
It is time to revive and work with our ecosystem and stop fighting against it. Just looking around shows our old adage of “Living better through Chemistry” is not working for our urban/suburban gardens. We need to return to the methods done by our not-so-distant forefathers as they farmed and managed the land around them.