Today’s blog post is stimulated by yesterday’s visit to one of my client’s yards. Victoria Kidman is both my client and friend. In 2013 under my small business, Ahmad Hassan Landscape Services, we both designed and installed a beautiful new front and backyard at Victoria’s newly remodeled East Sac property. One of the first things I learned while working there was that this particular area suffers from very poor drainage. The soil is a clay loam, meaning it’s predominately clay in texture, and is very slow to percolate.
Because of this we ended up installing 2 sump pumps on the property in order to move and assist drainage efforts from the backyard, and underneath the house itself. It was helpful to perform the landscape renovations in the fall, which also happens to be the best time of year for landscaping in Northern California. The only plant growing in the backyard when we started was a beautiful mature orange tree with some of the tastiest and juicy oranges I’ve ever had. When I find a wonderful fruit tree such as this, I feel as excited as a miner striking gold. Vicky would bag up the oranges and share them with as many people as she could. This after all is what growing fruit trees and a garden is all about. It’s almost impossible to harness and utilize all of the fruit from a full size tree yourself. A single family would have to squeeze a whole lotta juice, and nearly make themselves sick with oranges in order to consume all 10 bags of oranges their tree produces each season. Whenever I begin a landscape renovation, the first thing I do is assess the space and determine what in my professional opinion is healthy, has vigor, and is worthy of maintaining and integrating into the new landscape.
This tree was it! There we’re a few other camellias that we’re recently planted by the contractor that remodeled the house, so these were shifted around, since it was fall, and a great time for transplanting. When we finished the yard we did what most folks here in Northern California do; we mulched all of the garden beds with a decorative 1/4″ fir bark. I say decorative because these days most folks merely choose a bark mulch based primarily on it’s aesthetic value or cost. What they may or may not realize is that different types of mulch do make a difference.
While I won’t get into the specifics during this post I will tell you that what is recommended for soil that is dense, tight, and clay based is a loose, very porous mulch. When the soil is sandy and fast draining, a shredded and/or finely ground tight knit mulch should be applied. In this way the mulch can assist the soil by helping to regulate temperature in both situations, and assist the soils in either draining and drying out, or retaining moisture; whichever is needed.
In almost all situations some type of mulch should be applied. The benefits of mulch can be found right here.
Because we’re in Northern California we employed the use of drip irrigation for the newly remodeled garden beds. Hunter Industry’s MP Rotators we’re used on the lawn spaces and all was well. That is, right up until Ahmad got busy and left the garden maintenance to other people. For a few years Vicky would seek out good and affordable help with maintaining her yard. Someone to manage the “mow and blow” weekly, as well as occasional pruning and other seasonal chores that arise. She found a local gardener from Angie’s List. While this site is a great resource for locating contract professionals in your area, it is still up to you, the homeowner, to thoroughly vet the contractor before they begin work. So Vicky hired this gardener to fix a supposed irrigation issue; and because the fir bark that I installed was thin in areas, he suggested reapplying a “better, longer lasting mulch”.
Yet he failed to consider that when you’re applying mulch, you typically want to create about a 3″ mulch layer in order to reap the 3 main benefits of mulch. They are:
1. Soil Water Retention
2. Soil Erosion Protection
3. Weed Suppression.
This gardener actually had the nerve to bad mouth Ahmed Hassan, The Celebrity Landscaper and saying that I installed the wrong mulch, because it was fast to break down. In his opinion I was trying to simply make more money with by needing to reapply mulch on a frequent basis. Yeah buddy! There I am, The con artist landscaper, deep in thought on how I can juice my clients for more money when it comes to their yards. Wow!
It truly saddens me that folks are simply uneducated in proper, solid horticultural practices. Yet here I am, doing all that I can to beautify and educate the masses on how to have better success with their outdoor spaces.
At this point the only thing I can do with the dead Citrus tree that’s sitting in my client’s yard is make lemonade outta lemons. Okay so orange juice outta oranges.
So here’s my list of 10 optimistic thoughts that come out of this whole experience for me.
1. Always and in everything give thanks!
2. Myself and so many others got to enjoy the wonderful fruit from the orange tree.
3. Myself and a few others got to enjoy the beauty of this lovely structural plant in nature.
4. I’ll chop up all of the dead branches and turn them into mulch and compost.
5. I’ll chop all of the larger wood into firewood size pieces so that it can be burned and used for heat.
6. This same location will be planted again, using the existing soil. It will be elevated on a small mound to aid drainage for the new fruit tree. This time… a Peach!
7. Both myself and this other gardener made money while working on site.
8. My client Vicky was likely tired of picking all those damn oranges.
9. The orange tree was a free gift that came with the house. Someone else planted it, and plenty of us got to benefit and enjoy it’s fruit.
10. Give thanks that we have an abundant earth and that she alone nurtures, feeds, and provides for us.
Nothing lasts forever, except change.