Make Your Lawn a Healthy Place Before Planting


Many new homes are built on a raised platform of compacted fill dirt brought in by construction companies. Alternatively, areas of frequent use, either by people or our pets, are also at risk of compacted, nutrient-poor soils. Such compacted soils don’t provide a healthy environment for plant roots and may limit healthy growth if the plant roots are unable to adequately penetrate through the soil. Before you begin incorporating your warm-season plants, save yourself time as the weather gets hotter by identifying areas with compaction in your yard sooner rather than later. Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8″ and incorporate generous amounts of organic matter, such as compost or partially decayed plant materials, before installing the plants.

Soft Soil also helps with drainage as it is more permeable. This helps in replenishing groundwater and reducing run off.

How can I soft my soil?

There are several things to be done. Resist the urge to routinely roto-till or cultivate the garden.

Over-tilling breaks up the small soil aggregates into single particles. The soil should have little clumps of particles that are bound together in small, pea-sized lumps. When tilling an area multiple times, those little aggregates are broken down. When the soil later gets wet, it does not allow the water to pass through. A mini-pond is created and when the soil finally dries, it resembles an alligator’s skin. This linear pattern of cracked soil does not let air or water in.

Instead, consider adding organic matter by using mulch or compost over the top of a flower bed or simply hand-spade it into the top 3 to 6 inches of soil. For a vegetable garden, put 2 inches of compost on the soil surface and till in and repeat for a total of 4 inches in a season. A goal of 5 to 15 percent of organic matter would be advantageous.


Carolina Yellow Jessamine

Carolina yellow jessamine (or jasmine) is the state flower of South Carolina. This plant is a twining vine that is native to the Southeast US, so it is well-adapted to our LA climate. Carolina yellow jessamine can grow up to 3-6 meters high when given suitable climbing support. The leaves are evergreen and a beautiful dark green. The trumpet-shaped yellow flowers arise in clusters and sometimes have an orange center. The flowers are strongly scented and produce nectar that attracts a range of pollinators.

Historically, this plant was used as a topical to treat the symptoms of measles, tonsillitis, and headaches. However, all parts of this plant exude chemicals that are toxic to people and animals, so should not be consumed. The nectar is also toxic to honeybees, which may cause brood death when the nectar is gathered by the bees and brought back to their hive. Despite the potential hazards, this is a popular garden plant in the south and is frequently trained to cover walls.

Being a native plant it tends to be hardy and well-adapted in the residential or commercial landscape. Established native plants can grow with little to no fertilizer and pesticides, and may require little to no irrigation. In this way, native plants generally help protect water resources, allowing gardeners to reduce fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation practices which otherwise can contribute to stormwater runoff pollution and degradation of downstream water quality.