By Betty Beeman
Compacted soil is the major reason some of the trees, shrubs and plants fail to do well in our area. Calcium carbonate (caliche) is lime, a basic component of cement, and is found all over Pinal County. We also have a high salt content in our soil.
How do you know if you have compaction problems? A simple way is to dig a hole. Using a pick and a shovel, dig one foot deep and as wide as you feel will give you a good reading. Then fill the hole with water and time how long it takes the water to sink into the ground. Most soils should drain within 30 minutes to two hours. If it takes longer than six hours do not plant anything at that site.
Don’t be tempted to use compacted soil to container garden or fill your raised beds. Plants need a light porous soil to obtain the air and water necessary for growth. To provide a healthy environment for your plants you must have good drainage, proper fertilizer and at least six hours of sunlight daily.
Pinal County has an average yearly rainfall of five inches, so the need to deliver water consistently and wisely becomes priority No. 1. Mulches, placed on top of the soil, around the plants are the easiest way to avoid fluctuating soil moisture levels. Biodegradable mulches such a straw, alfalfa hay, dried leaves and compost block surface evaporation while suppressing weeds and making important contributions to the soil’s supply of organic matter. Plants suffer permanent damage with inconsistent watering.
Monthly Gardening Tips
• Protect young citrus trees from sunburn by painting trunks with latex paint mixed 50/50 with water.
• Check your drip system because the heat may cause the hoses to become soft and your drip emitters could pop out.
• Potted plants may need to be watered twice a day. Keep pots out of hot direct afternoon sun to avoid cooking the roots. If your pots are on a patio, consider placing them on a wood pallet or other structure so that air can move beneath the pots and prevent direct contact with the cement.
• It’s not too late to plant to plant daisies, hollyhocks, marigolds, salvia and sunflower, or transplants of cantaloupe, watermelons, pumpkin, winter and summer squash, eggplant and okra.
Betty Beeman is a Maricopa resident and Pinal County Master Gardener.
This column appeared in the June issue of InMaricopa.