Mark Koehler

Growing trees, shrubs and flowers in Los Banos can be a challenge. 

Most homeowners don’t think of the soil before planting. 

Our soil is basically clay with some gravelly alluvium. Unfortunately, our soil is also extremely alkaline so before thinking about planting spend time improving the indigenous soil. 

My motto is, “Spend more money improving the existing soil than buying plants.” 

My secret is you can’t beat soil amendment. 

For our soil I mix the best quality compost/sand loam blend with 5 to 10 percent manure, sulfur, and green sand, which is high in trace elements. 

Incorporate all of the above and work into existing soil. Also at this time, rake and smooth out planting beds, and pick out dirt clods and stones. 

I also like to wet down the flower beds before planting which helps initiate microbial activity. 

Remember your plants and trees will only flourish and bloom if your soil is worked and in good condition.

Mark Koehler is the president of the city tree commission and a landscape architect, arborist, California master gardener, California landscape technician and civil engineer.