The Coast News Group
Local Roots

The dirt on soil

One great thing about working with plants of all types, irrigation systems and landscapes on a regular basis is that you can get great hands-on experience and learn oftentimes much more from doing and solving problems than you would by attending a lecture or a class.A great tenant I like to employ for my designs and landscape installs is to be aware not only of the microclimate situations but also the soil types and drainage considerations you might encounter for any given home or location.

I have come to the realization that soil types will often dictate what kind of plants can survive with very little amendments, their hole sizes during install and what the budget dictates in terms of soil prep or finishing materials that eventually leave you with a product that can stand the test of time.

Super clay-like soils in opposition to sandy soils require care in terms of irrigation control during the initial planting stage. Sandy soils often need plants that tolerate quick moisture loss and nutrient replenishment. But one of the most interesting things I have learned from my experience is that soil biology can either make or break a beautiful garden and even affect commercial productivity.

A great secret to creating a beautiful garden is to let nature do the work for you. Sure, we have all heard about amendments, soil tilling and the four parts of soil — air, organics, minerals and moisture — but a key insight to have is that soils are living.

Soils are a giant community alive on a microbial level, a fungul level and a macrobiotic level including earthworms and insects good or bad. I am not an organic chemist but the simple rules of nutrient availability and uptake are much more complex than you would think. Ph, soils humus, water and the interaction of all these things in combination with the living constituents that populate our dirt allow plants to flourish or fail depending upon their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Fortunately, mother nature abhors a vacuum and tends to keep things balanced. It is usually we humans who upset this delicately balanced apple cart with the introduction and transportation of undesirable species. White fly, the glassy winged sharpshooters, fruit flies, tree bores and a whole host of others are a detriment to our community.

It is just this very thing that led me to a new understanding of how to solve this and a whole host of other plagues and problems currently found in many gardens.

Organics Alive, also formally known as Worm Gold, is a composite of worm castings and amendments that can improve the nitrogen uptake in your garden by 25 percent to 30 percent. It is also full of a enzyme known to be a natural insect repellant. By spreading this product thickly around the base of almost any infested plant, you can eliminate the chewing, biting and sucking insects in your garden without spraying or pesticide use while invigorating the health and well-being of your garden and soils.

In my own garden, the soils are poor, washed out sand and clay like sea bottom. I enjoy a mixture of tropicals, succulents and palms. The problem for me was that I had a white fly infestation that would not go away. They loved my purple cana, my plumeria and even attacked my giant birds of paradise.

Washing them off with water helped but the egg casings would just hatch down below in the soils and the problem would return. I finally used this product and changed not only the soil biology around my plants but I completely got rid of the white fly and the mold that accompanied them.

Commercial worm casting beds stretch for miles over a hundred acres in Northern California. Here through a selective diet high in cellulose and chitin the earth worms have developed bacteria in their guts that break down any chitinous material (the outsides of insects and the building blocks of many fungus) by secreting a chitinase that turns chitin into a digestible carbohydrate.

Insects hate it. The neat thing about this enzyme is that it becomes systemic and protects your plants from the inside out.