Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate, which means hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. This unique climate makes landscaping in California more akin to gardens found in Spain or Italy and some parts of South Africa and Australia, rather than that of other US states.
The state is now in its fifth year of drought and therefore, many people are turning to water-wise plants and more environmentally friendly landscaping practices. Water restrictions and a lack of rainfall have made it imperative that local Californians are planning their landscaping schemes in much more detail than ever before.
Soil preparation and maintenance, as well as irrigation, are the some of the most important factors to consider when you are planning a landscape for your commercial property. In California, we have a couple of different types of soil that are rich in nutrients from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Hardpan soil is almost clay-like in its consistency and is often impermeable once dry – making it hard for soil and roots to take hold. Sandy and loamy soils found in other parts of the valley drain quickly and are prone to nutrient loss.
It’s imperative that you first establish what kind of soil you have on your property and then ensure that the following activities are part of your soil preparation plan:
Areas that have hardpan soils or clay are more susceptible to becoming compacted, and this makes it incredibly hard for water to permeate the soil, roots to take hold and for oxygen and nutrients to keep the soil healthy. Soil can become compacted in a number of ways that include too much foot traffic, as well as unusually dry periods like droughts.
Plants and lawns all need oxygen to survive, and without good aeration in your property’s soil, you are going to struggle to keep anything alive. Aeration is normally done with a roller-type or piston-driven aerifier machine, which extracts plugs of soil from the ground. The holes that are left behind allow oxygen, nutrients and water a route to easily permeate the soil, right at the point of root systems. The best time to aerate is in the growing season, as it allows lawn and plants to grow back as quickly as possible.
There are two separate processes in soil preparation that could make a huge difference to the quality of your soil: soil fertilization and soil amendment.
Fertilization is the process of adding a source of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus to the soil that could be lacking in any of these. This can be done through a chemically created material called synthetic fertilizer or organic fertilizers like compost and bone meal. There is also slow-release and fast-release fertilizers; fast-release fertilizers act quickly and are water-soluble but are susceptible to wash-out and burn, and slow-release fertilizers release nitrogen over time and (delete) may take longer to work. – but they aren’t prone to burning or leaching. Slow release fertilizers tend to last three times as long as fast-release fertilizers. The type of fertilizer you use depends on your soil type, as well as what you plan on planting.
Soil amendment is similar to fertilization, however, where fertilization directly affects the rate of plant growth, amendment changes the actual structure of the soil indirectly affecting the rate of plant growth. Amendments change the soil structure as they decompose allowing it to absorb more water and nitrogen, as well as retain it more effectively. Some great examples of soil amendments are Peat moss, bone meal, gypsum or organic composts.
Watering time and techniques are vital components in soil preparation. Soil should be watered at the coolest part of the day, especially considering the current drought, and early in the morning or late in the evening are the ideal times. It allows the soil to absorb and retain moisture before the heat of the sun evaporates most of it off the surface.
Irrigation techniques are also essential, and unless you are planning to have vast tracts of lawn (which aren’t very water-wise), then drip irrigation is probably your best choice. This is the form of irrigation that is not just the most accurate, as it drops water right on plants’ root systems, but it is also the most efficient when it come to water use. There is less evaporation, runoff and water loss with a drip irrigation system than with a spray.
Soil preparation done right is essential to have healthy plants. It is an important part of maintaining your commercial property, and it should not be overlooked. And if you have too much on your plate, hand it over to the commercial property landscaping professionals. If you would like to know more about landscaping for your commercial property, download our guide: Landscape Maintenance Guide for a Commercial Property Owner for expert opinions and advice.