Nicole Hackett, Garden Girl

Prepare for summer’s heat by giving your yard a boost now

Your entire landscape will need extra help this year. Fertilize all your plants more often. (Photo by CDC on

Nicole Hackett, Garden GirlCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Mar. 8, 2022) — This month in the garden, folks should focus on soil care and fertilizer.

It looks like it’s going to be another stressful growing season for our landscapes. But with some effort now, we can help our plants get through whatever comes their way.

Our native soil is already showing the type of cracks you should only see in the summer months. Folks, we need to really give our native soil some protection from the heat and the sun. Apply thick layers of compost around landscape trees and shrubs, roses, perennial beds, even throughout the lawn. A hardy layer of compost or soil conditioner will benefit our plants by keeping roots cooler and not allowing as much evaporation of moisture from the sun.

Not all composts and soil conditioners are the same. Read product labels or ask for advice.

Traditional, established landscaping (bushes and trees that exceed 20 years of age) can get by with soil builders with chicken manure, earthworm castings and fir mulch. Spread two inches on top of the soil and aim for the dripline of plants.

Roses and perennials need a soil conditioner with a little more punch. Look for a product that has at least 25% manure with beneficial fungi, earthworm castings, bat guano and fir mulch. Spread a two-inch layer beneath the driplines and throughout the beds.

Lawns need serious help after the dry, cold January. If you haven’t done it in a year, you should aerate your lawn. By pulling plugs of compacted clay from your lawn, you’ll allow the water that your use, soil conditioners and fertilizers to get down to the roots. Your soil conditioner should have a large amount of manure. Look for a product heavy in manure, something near 60%.

If you can stand the smell, you can use straight, composted manure on your lawns. Both steer and chicken manure would be useful choices, applied at half an inch. You are simply trying to color the soil. Before summer begins, we suggest applying another half-inch layer.

Fertilize a week after applying the soil conditioner. Consider using organic fertilizers because they have less nitrogen and will gently feed the grass, rather than boosting fast growth – which is more water-demanding. They also contain beneficial fungus and microbes that are valuable nutrients for the lawn.

Your entire landscape will need extra help this year. Fertilize all your plants more often. Strong plants will be better able to fight through the hot summer and early fall months.

Last year at the nursery, we fertilized all the plants ever other week with diluted fish emulsion at half strength. The plants really appreciated the extra hand. It helps sustain leaves and vigor without overgrowing.

Nicole Hackett is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden.

Nicole Hackett
Nicole Hackett

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at