Here are some more tips to establish your plants for a healthy and habitat-friendly garden in 2021!
1. Decompact or Aerate
If you have heavy clay soil, it’s best to decompact your soil before planting. Find a break between rain when your soil is dried out enough to walk on without further compaction. These conditions will make it easy enough to dig and loosen soil by hand or mechanically with a rototiller. Otherwise, if you have well-draining soil, it is best to only dig where you’ll be planting so you don’t disturb overwintering beneficial insects or other microorganisms.
Now is a good time to mulch around your new plantings and fill in your mulch gaps for the upcoming dry season. Mulch reduces water loss through evaporation, keeps roots cooler, suppresses weeds and reduces soil compaction. Aim for a 2-3" layer of wood chip mulch, and be careful not to bury the crowns of your new plants. However, if you have a loamy or sandy spot in your garden, try to leave some areas bare so you can help support ground nesting beneficial insects, especially native pollinators.
Since this is a low-rainfall year, make sure that you keep the soil around your new plantings consistently moist as we head into the dry season. This may be 1-2 times per week without rainfall for the first three months. After that, weekly deep watering in the dry season is best for the first year. This will help your plants establish and push their roots more firmly into the soil. If your plant looks stressed and the soil is dry, try giving it a water boost. While you’re at it, if you have a spare saucer or water feature, you can provide hydration or baths for the birds, the hard-working pollinators, and beneficial insects! Just make sure to change the water regularly so it doesn't attract mosquitos.