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Don’t Panic, It’s Organic: Part 2: Malibu hard-gardening

Andy Lopez, Contributing Columnist/Invisible Gardener
1:54 pm PDT June 9, 2014

This is continued from my last article on hard pan in Malibu and what to do about it. 

Start the drip time at 30 minutes and watch to see if the tree vents start to over flow or if the water seeps down. 

In a hard pan situation, the water will just sit there and never seep down. You should therefore get a rod and stick it into the tree vent, going down as deep as you can, say three feet. 

This is a slow process because the soil is going to be very hard and will need time to soften up. 

To help it soften up you should add the following into the tree vents which will then start to act upon the hard clay and loosen it up. In my years of working with this situations I discovered Nitron A-35 ( 

Invented by a good ole boy in Arkansa, this enzyme product is being used to allow road workers access to hard pan soil under highways. 

It works great to soften the hard pan, to slowly allow air down into the area. I use this along with several other enzymes in my natural spraying service because it really helps the soil. You should also add gypsum to the tree vents and allow the drip to slowly percolate it down into the area. Nitron A-35 is also part of Superseaweed.

The tree vents are a great way to not only keep your soil alive but to nourish it as well by placing compost, rock dust, organic fertilizers into the Tree vents and as the water passes thru it will get also to the deep soil layers.

Just start at 30 minutes once a week for the first month, keeping an eye for how the water seeps down. If you find that after 30 minutes, the water is seeping down as fast as it goes in, then I would increase to one hour and keep on eye to see what happens. If you are lucky enough that the water goes down in an hour, then you do not have hard pan but you still should act as if you do and follow my instructions. You should water not more then once a week during hot times but more like once a month during normal times. You will need to find out what is best for your situation since every one has different growing conditions.

You should apply rock dust, compost and mulch on the entire property to insure that you are adding organic matter back. If you can get a shredder and shred everything and place back onto property. The rock dust will add minerals and keep the soil alive, the compost will add the needed microbes and the mulch will protect it from the sun and heat.

The only place you will need overhead watering is on your lawn and even that can be done so that the watering is kept below ground.

A reader also asked me what can be done to stop rats from eating a bougainvillea for its water.

I suggest trying to use coffee; cold-brew coffee is actually the best. You will have to spray almost every night. You can also try using a garlic barrier, which can last longer. 

Don’t spray just the plants, but the surrounding area. Rotate between the two. Eco Smart also workswell here, and that should last you about a week.

Do you have any questions? Email me for a response in my next article.