As the sound of winter rains echo our days and nights with the sounds of pitter patter, we take a moment to rest, and let nature restore itself. In landscape construction, it is important to listen to the weather. Our soil is the one of the most valuable elements to making a healthy and sustainable landscape. If workers are trampling through space in the rain, or heavy equipment making tire gauges in the soil, the ability to restore that area for fertile planting is lost. As much as we feel we can work all year round in California, Alameda County and Contra Costa County does have a winter season. It is imperative that we are conscientious of our actions and attune our attention during the rainy season.Goes Here
A few important DON’T’s in the Winter Months:
• MASSIVE SOIL MOVING OR DEMOLITION: First of all, saturated soil can weigh up to twice its weight in comparison to dry soil. If you are trying budget for landscape construction, wet soil will always double the amount of labor. The saturated soil often sticks to machinery, shovels, picks and boots making the work less efficient, less enjoyable and the landscape cleanup work painfully time intensive.
• DIGGING TRENCHES: Deep enough trenches when exposed to days of rain, can concave on themselves, destroying the work, and possibly damaging the utilities laid in the trench. One project we had dug 24”deep trenches for plumbing, upon waiting for inspection from the city, torrential winter rains hit the area for days, part of the work concaved on itself, and we had restore the soil trench before the inspection date.
• PLANTING TREES OR SHRUBS: While, plants love the rain, and need water to survive, planting in the rains can pose a few problems. Most of our Northern California soil is clay heavy so it needs to be amended with organic compost, the soils cannot adequately be blended together when soaking wet, the holes dug could create future cavities of non-filtrating soil, and root damage when transplanting can occur from the heavy weight of the saturated soil. If you want a future healthy garden, strong trees, and strong root system, it is important to plant when soil is not saturated.
• PRUNING: Each planting from native gardens, to lush shade shrubs, to fruit trees have different pruning protocols (see next month’s blog on Seasonal Aesthetic Pruning). However, all trees have one rule of thumb. Do not prune when raining. The reason behind this, is when you saw, cut or remove a limb it is raw and exposed to the elements, allowing water and moisture into the newly cut limb is a recipe for future diseases and weaknesses to the plant. When pruning you want to allow the open cut to dry a callous properly. You can prune between rains, but want to allow for at least 3 days of dry weather after significant pruning.
• DECK SEALING OR PAVER/MASONRY SEALING: Ideally you want to apply your sealant before the winter season. This way that extra coat provides protection against the elements during the winter season. If you built a deck, and you did not get to sealing before seasonal rains, wait until a dry week, if you are sealing a deck, make sure to sand it first, if you as sealing, paver patio, flagstone, or concrete work make sure to power wash clean before sealing.
• LANDSCAPE MACHINERY: Lastly, be cautious of machinery in heavy rains. It is possible for the weight of the machinery to collapse in a sink hole, or high-water table underground waterway. Furthermore, driving heavy machinery on top soil, compresses and destroys the microbiological substrate that has been build up for decades through natural decomposition. Compacted soil will not be able to regenerate for years, and it will make planting the area difficult.
The moral of the story is to listen to the natural elements, and take a moment to enjoy the lush winter rains, instead of pushing through a project, the soil, your boots, and your future self will forever be grateful for the seasonal pause. Remember a landscape is a living entity. It will continue to grow after the landscape construction. So take your time to pause, listen, and observe in order to create a healthy and lasting garden.