Gathering information via the soil test report is one thing, fixing it is another. If a soil test report indicates a deficiency in one or more areas, modification and replacement are options. The more extreme the shortcoming, the more likely that replacement is called for. If there’s doubt regarding replacement, incorporating high-quality compost is a good first step. Neutral, high-organic matter compost will help solve several problems including poor infiltration, water holding capacity and nutrient deficiency. Mix it with the existing poor soil rather than merely placing it on top to avoid creating layers of soil with different characteristics. When this occurs, water will percolate readily to the interface of the two layers and stop moving downwards, causing a perched water table, which is a highly undesirable outcome.
For example, you would note a silver maple tree with root damage in the inventory, while observations regarding overall tree health, specific nutrient deficiencies and possible pest problems would round out the initial consideration.
While few of us can draw finished architectural renderings, everyone can draw circles and ovals to create simple bubble diagrams to identify hardscapes, trees, shrubs and masses of plant material. There’s much value in identifying where the turf, ground covers, trees and shrubs will be as a first step in choosing replacement plants.
When looking at the possibilities, consider what could be in addition to what was. For example, simple sidewalk arrangements could be configured to permit better landscape growth following construction. Match the bubble diagrams to the program statements or goals for the landscape.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER
Once the soil replacement/modification has been done, existing vegetation is a consideration. In some cases, plants may have been removed and stored/stockpiled in a temporary nursery location before the soil was worked. Before they are reinstalled, check the irrigation system for leaks, coverage, distribution uniformity and overall efficiency. Chances are good that changes from turf to ground covers or vice-versa have created the need for a retrofit in terms of spray heads, run times and other equipment. Once the irrigation system has been revamped, stockpiled plants can be replanted, which will lower recovery costs.
Now it’s time to choose replacement plants. Using the bubble diagrams as a guide, consider the height and spread, color, bloom sequence, disease resistance and other features of the many plant options. As you wade through the choices, use right plant, right place (RPRP) as a guiding principle.