- Author: Jane Callier
This is the fifth post in this series following concepts and information from UC Master Gardeners of Napa County presentation, “Soil is the Solution, healing the earth one yard at a time,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqA8DqBtRuo . The presentation describes practices we can learn and implement about soil to help slow and ultimately reverse the damage humankind has done and slow global warming. Previous posts were May 24, June 7, June 28 and July 19, 2021.
Another feature of robust, healthy soil is a diversity of plants. Not only does this make an area of the landscape interesting; it means it's part of a healthy biosphere, working as nature intended allowing microscopic and larger organisms in the soil to achieve their full potential. Having a diverse natural system translates to stability in that system. Having a greater diversity above the ground also means a greater diversity below the ground.
Does this mean we rush out and buy plants and put them in the ground willy-nilly with no thought as to whether or not they are invasive, or their water and other cultural needs? For our mediterranean climate, California native plants are a good choice, plus there are many perennials and bulbs from other summer-dry mediterranean climates of the world that greatly increases our palette. There are many excellent plant lists to consult before a mission of diversifying a landscape. A combination of trees, shrubs and perennials are ideal. When planting food crops, plant starts of cold season crops as summer crops fade. This idea is called interplanting.
The discussion also needs to include the welfare of pollinators. Their importance can't be stressed enough. Without pollinators there would be no food, hence no life and we couldn't have a discussion at all. For now, as we think about plants for the landscape, keep in mind pollinators and plants they favor. Just as our tastes range from sandwiches to ice cream cones, so do pollinators appreciate a variety of plants. Plant a stand of flowering plants three to six square feet to make it easy for them to find. Provide fresh water and house them according to their needs, so they can feed, live and raise their young.
For safety in fire prone areas, non-combustible mulch should be used for areas less than five feet away from structures and shouldn't have plants. Live plants, even when irrigated, can ignite. For mulched areas between five and thirty feet from structures, large bark nuggets and composted wood chips can be used in non-contiguous areas.
Our takeaways are these:
A diversity of plants builds into a healthy system of root varieties, greater soil activity and carbon sequestration.
Appropriate plants for our climate are best.
Take care of our pollinators.
Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. or phone at 707-253-4143. Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.
Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.
Photo credits: Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0)