Hello again Westside Gardeners.

I love to explore and observe residential and commercial properties as well as city street trees.

As a landscape professional and certified arborist, I critique at a high level. I believe in being honest, not listening to poor excuses and telling you as it is.

My first observation when viewing a residential home is turf management. I am seeing way too many lawns being mowed too short. This time of year, lawns need to be mowed at three to three-and-a-half inches.

I frequently observe dry spots from improper watering and coverage. Summer lawn watering should be three times a week and at least 12 to 15 minutes per station. Check to make sure sprinklers are providing head-to-head coverage, and it’s very important to take a water audit through-out your property.

Adding a water-soluble surfactant can also help your lawns. The surfactant helps facilitate the reversal of soil compaction and impermeable soil conditions.

Another method is to install soil moisture sensors. The soil sensors signal to the responsible water source to either add time to irrigation controller or automatically turn system on when soil is very dry.

I am also finding local gardeners persist in shearing shrubs every moment they have available. It’s to a point now that the shrubs hardwood is exposed, with very little foliage. This is not correct.

Gardeners that mow lawns too short don’t comprehend pruning and have no horticulture background.

Fertilization is also improper. Local gardeners need to stop using commercial grade synthetic fertilizers. These fertilizers only weaken plant and tree cell walls and lead to the decimation of soil microbes.

With commercial properties there are many issues, I’ll name a few. Shade trees are not allowed to grow to full capacity and provide shade. Leaning trees are the result of poor landscape management, Improper irrigation usage, and shearing hard and exposed bare soil.

What can I say about our city street trees? They need help.

The city is in need of a local certified arborist who can be on call for emergencies. Someone who really cares about our trees and our township. Our community is considered a Tree City USA, but we are, unfortunately, a long way from that.

Our urban forest needs direction toward a scientifically based landscape management system. With recommendations delivering quality service safely and at a level that meets or exceeds industry standards.

Let’s not leave out proper code enforcement. There are way too many street trees being destroyed by locals who are completely clueless with what they are doing. Let’s stop this.

Mark Koehler

Mark Koehler of Los Banos is an arborist and master gardener, who has degrees in Landscape Architecture and Landscape Horticulture from UC Berkeley and Northeastern University.