How to prepare your California soil for fall planting


  1. About two weeks before planting, spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure over the soil in garden beds.
  2. Dig the amendments into the soil, mixing lightly to a depth of 9 to 12 inches. Rake the bed smooth. Water it well, then water again before planting. 



Unless your soil is very sandy or is heavy, poorly draining clay, it’s not necessary to add organic amendments before planting native and Mediterranean plants.

  1. Dig a planting hole three or four times as wide as the rootball; the hole’s sides should taper outward into the soil, as shown. Slip the plant out of its container, loosen roots with your fingers, and set it on the central plateau of firm soil. The top of the rootball should sit just above ground level.
  2. If your native soil is loam and drains well, backfill with unamended soil you dug from the hole. If your soil is sandy or is heavy clay, mix the backfill with an equal part of compost. Either way, add the soil in stages, firming it around the roots with your hands as you work.
  3. Build a berm of soil around the plant to form a watering basin. Irrigate gently. Spread a layer of mulch around the plant, keeping mulch several inches away from the stem or trunk. Don’t fertilize until you see new growth emerging in spring.
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