The Bradford pears have bloomed, smacking us in the nose with their (not so wonderful, to many) pungent aroma, and reminding us that spring is on its way.
The days are getting steadily longer, and it won’t be long before it’s time to plant that garden you’ve been dreaming of. With that in mind, we spoke with a few experts on what all you should be doing in your yard now to prepare for spring.
Joy Alberts is a local Master Gardener and owner of Joyous Spaces, once a garden boutique with a downtown storefront, and now a landscape design company. She reports that it is key to get on top of weeds this time of year. The reason for this being that the ground is still moist from what little rainy season we have, making it easier to remove roots from the soil than, say, if you were to wait until sun has baked our clay-heavy soil compact. Start this process early and stay on top of it throughout the season.
Beyond weeding, this time of year is also key for doing general clean up and maintenance on the yard. Remove excess leaves, clean beds, and take the opportunity to do some soil maintenance. For this, Joy recommends Harmony Organics, a local company specializing in organic soil, soil amendments, and fertilizers.
Why is the type of soil you use so important?
The soil you use now can affect your yard for years to come. Using quality, organic materials in your soil will help replenish vital nutrients that keep your plants healthy and happy, and it will also kick start your soil into maintaining its own healthy equilibrium into the future. Recommendations for Benicia soil are Harmony Organics’ Growers Premium Soil or Mo-Betta Soil Mix. You’ll know you’re in good shape for planting when you have 18-24 inches of fluffy soil to work with.
Another important part of preparing the yard for spring is pruning and removing debris. Summer blooming shrubs should be on your pruning list, as should any trees on your property. If you have any dead plants or dead or problematic trees, it’s a good idea to remove those ahead of spring, especially as the fire season comes quickly on spring’s heels these days. For assistance in all things tree-related, who better to turn to than Sexy Trees?
Sexy Trees is a company that truly is passionate about trees.
The owner, Alex Llamas, gave us some signs of risk to look for while preparing your yard for spring. Any trees with fungus growing on them in the rainy season, that show cracks along the limbs, or that have branches hanging over the house are ones that you should have assessed. In addition, if you have trees on your property that have cables installed in them, these should be inspected annually, ideally by or with the assistance of whoever initially installed it. Take the time now to make sure the trees on your property are up to fire code. Luckily, Sexy Trees handles everything from risk assessment, to pruning, to tree removal.
Another bit of advice from Alex relates to yard health. He recommends that readers who plan to hire a yard work service this spring ensure the service in question regularly sanitizes their equipment. Why? Think of a lawnmower like a shopping cart at the grocery store. One person uses it and leaves whatever germs are on their hands behind on the handle. Then another person uses it, picking up those same germs. In the same way, a lawnmower or other yard equipment can pick up pathogens from one yard and spread them to another, infecting and potentially killing certain plant and tree species. Alex says this is becoming particularly relevant these days as climate change stresses plants and trees, making them more susceptible to pathogens. Because of this, it is recommended to also take this time to sanitize your own yard tools in preparation for spring. It’s worth noting that some soils can also harbor pathogens, so it’s a good idea to ask your soil provider if their product has been sterilized.
Once you’ve taken care of the cleaning, amending, and pruning, it’s time to tend to planning and planting.
Joy recommends choosing native plants that will best weather the hot, dry summers here. Considering our extended fire seasons, choosing plants that hold water, like succulents, and leaving space between your garden and your home can help you build a natural fire break. One tip she says novices and experienced gardeners alike sometimes get wrong is picking the right location for your plants. Make sure your sun-loving plants are planted in a spot that actually gets a lot of sun, and that your shade-loving plants go in a majority shaded area. Acid soil-loving plants should be planted around a redwood tree. Planning your garden around the particular conditions of your yard, or cultivating your yard to support the garden you want, will help ensure success. For those whose gardening includes potted plants, now is a great time to up-pot root-bound plants, flush with rainwater to dislodge salts, and give them fresh soil. Joy’s final recommendation is to simply get out and be present in your garden: “Gardens have so much to teach you. You’ll come away feeling more connected with the earth and with yourself.”