Jimmie's Easy Gardening - Pt 2: Maintainence

If you have planted your garden flowers, shrubs, and trees in rich, amended soil as described in "Jimmie's Easy Gardening - Part 1", they will look better than most. But if you really want you plants to look vibrant green and have vigorous growth, you'll want to give them some Spring TLC.
 I have found that the "secret" to enabling that Green Opulence is simple: just areate the soil and apply some decent natural fertilizer followed by mulch in the Spring. Several resons for this:

The past summer's heat and the winter rains have compacted the soil; so your plant's roots could use some fresh air.

Last year's growth sucked up nutrients from the soil.

The mulch you put down last season is now partly broken down and/or blown away.

The plants might be partially smothered in dead leaves, which will invite some undesired insects.

It's actually pretty easy. Here's how.

So here's one of my Shore Pines. Since we get so much rain here on the Oregon coast, the soil is so compacted that water runs off. Also the mulch I put down last season has been whisked away by the shrieking Pacific winds - there's a bit left near the rocks.

So Step 1 is to spread a natural fertilizer of some kind. I am using Dr Earth's "Acid Lovers" fertilizer here. The natural type fertilizers have so much more than the synthetics, which are mainly concentrated Nitrogen that will blast the plants all at once and can even burn them if over-applied.
 The ingredients of the naturals are from whole compounds that will break down slowly and nourish the plants longer - just like what happens out there in the forests. Further, they usually contain beneficial soil microbes which will make your soil alive and supportive.

bare soil fertilizer

Step 2 is to break up the hardened soil. Do this lightly with a small straight weeding tool. You want to open the soil a bit so the roots can get some air, but not too much so as to break up the surface feeder roots.
 You can use a 4-tined fork (lightly) for larger areas around big bushes or trees.

And Step 3 is to spread mulch on top. Mulch has huge benefits. It keeps the soil cooler during the hot summer, and retains moisture so the plants won't dry out so much between waterings. It breaks down during the summer and adds organic material to loosen up clay-type soils.
 This is "small-nugget" mulch. The "large-nugget" mulch won't break down and thus won't provide the organic material. And the fine mulch ("bark dust") won't provide the cover that is needed to keep the sun from heating up the roots, since it breaks down too fast. Further, the bark dust type is mainly just that - splintery irritating dust that irritates your hands and feet!

break up soil add mulch

Here's one of the Dwarf Alberta Spruce trees. Although I added lots of organic matter to the soil when I planted it, the top surface is compacted and all the mulch has been blown to Idaho by the Pacific coast Winter winds! The large-nugget mulch I had over the surrounding area managed to stay intact - you can see some of it in the upper left.
 So I used the same procedure discussed above: added the fertilizer and worked it in by gently breaking up the top layer of soil about an inch deep.

bare soil

Here it is after I broke up the soil and added the mulch.

fresh mulch.

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