Column: The Garden Girl – Landscape Care

June 8, 2014 14:00 pm · 5 comments


Mulch, wetting agents and common sense will help your landscape through the heat of the summer. Last week we spoke about lawn stress and care. This week lets focus on the rest of the landscape such as your trees, shrubs and hedges, rose and flowerbeds, ornamental grasses and color spots. How to water them

Wetting agents have been available for decades. A wetting agent is a soap-like solution that when applied to the soil helps break the invisible barrier that lies on our soil’s surface. This barrier repels water, causing water-runoff. When a wetting agent is applied and watered in the barrier breaks down and the soil becomes open for water absorption. Depending on the brand, different companies call wetting agents different thing. Monterey brand is available at nurseries and garden centers. Their product is called Perc-O-Late Plus. Whichever product you choose, follow package directions for best results. If it says 2 tablespoons per gallon, and you apply 4 tablespoons, you’ll burn your plants. Keeps in mind wetting agents are for the soil beneath your landscape plants, shrubs, trees, vegetable beds, container and lawn. It is not to be applied to the plant foliage. Water once applied to work product into ground before evaporation begins. It may take a month to see results once a wetting agent has been applied. Be patient, they work!

Mulch, mulch, mulch. If all you do for your landscape this year is to mulch, you would be doing well by your yard. Micro, chunky, shredded bark, compost, straw, anything is better than letting your soil display its cracks. Exposed soil can have gallons of moisture sucked out of itself through evaporation, especially on hot days. Mulch doesn’t cost too much. Spreading it is labor intensive, but the benefits out weigh the effort.

Please folks, stop watering in the heat of the day. Pick and choose what and where irrigation is needed. Each morning as I drive my son to school I pass a house along Marsh Creek road where the homeowners are watering very established boxwood shrubs daily. This is a waste of water. Those established shrubs do not need daily irrigation. Pretty much nothing established does. It is time to pick and choose what needs water to survive the summer. Needs is the key word here. Perhaps you don’t need that annual colors spot. Maybe you water shrubs by hand rather than sprinkler. Foundation-plant areas should have their irrigation changed from sprinkler to drip irrigation. You’ll use gallons less water. Deciduous shrubs and trees can take the stress of drought, or insufficient watering. They may sacrifice some of their foliage to survive, but they usually don’t die unless they are never watered again. Ornamental grasses are also really tough, and tolerant to long sessions between watering. Roses too. Mature roses can survive with 2 gallons of water a week with slow hand watering.

We as a community water our landscapes too much, and not at the proper times. We leave our soil un-mulched, and install the wrong plants for our climate. If we are going to continue to enjoy our landscapes we need to change our approach, our care and our installations.

Happy Gardening.

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio and Gardens, located at 6780 Marsh Creek Road in Clayton, 925-672-0207.

Nicole writes for the Clayton Pioneer Newspaper, and She is also the Clayton Valley Garden Club 2012 President.

1 Road King Terry June 8, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Good info., great product…

2 Silva June 9, 2014 at 9:54 AM

I have identified (maybe thanks to Antler if I’m remembering correctly!) the relatively recent volunteer to my succulent garden; spurge. I actually liked the look of it when it came in, and this summer it’s at the point of no return toehold. Am I being foolish not to remove it? It makes a low matt of silver/greenish lacily intertwined small leaves. Is there a good reason I should remove it?

3 Turkey-proof flowers? June 10, 2014 at 5:22 PM

Do you happen to know what kind of flowers I can plant that turkeys won’t eat? They have eaten all the flowers off of my backyard plants, making the yard look rather barren. They don’t seem to eat the flowering clover in the lawn, though…just dig holes in it to wallow in.

4 Kirk June 10, 2014 at 7:02 PM

I would suggest, cranberries, sugar pumpkins, Sage, onions, lots of corn, and some sweet potatoes.

Then get a golf club.

5 RC June 21, 2014 at 10:12 PM


Are these “wetting agents” you refer to, anything like sylica beads or the beads that soak up water, then slowly dehydrate back to their original not watered size? I was reading a study done at UC Davis, that says using this to “save” water is absolutely a waste of money. The study showed that the water evaporate from the beads, as water evaporates from ones lawns or landscaping and offer very little if any added benefit whatsoever.

After reading the study, it made sense to me, though I was disappointed to hear that it did not work. I also read that aerating or thatching your lawn right now can actually traumatize the lawn, further exposing it to more damage, when we are Anless due to the drought. Of course, as you’ve mentioned, mowing at a higher level and watering in the early morning hours are good practices.

Should we wait to aerate our lawns until fall or would it be okay now?
Anyone? Buehler? Buehler? (lol)
And a comment to the one who said watering during the early morning didn’t work for them, due to wind…very interesting! We all know the windiest time of the day during the summer is from 4pm to 7pm, especially in our Claycord area where we are in the middle of hot valley heat and cool bay breezes and fog fighting each other.

So, what’s the verdict on these lawn additives and aerating now?

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