Ann Wright: Miracle March — Did someone say, spring?
After a fairly long dry spell in February, the rain, snow and cold wet stuff in-between is very welcome this March. With the official start of spring, March 20, mixed with scattered sunny days, many gardeners are experiencing the “garden itch” — itchin’ to get out to dig in the dirt.
But wait. The soggy, saturated soil should be allowed to dry out a bit before planting. Soil is more than dirt under our feet — it is a fragile, complex matrix of minerals, water, air spaces and multitudes of microorganisms.
The intricate structure of soil can be damaged if worked too wet. Waterlogged soil has very little air in pore spaces, so oxygen is limited and roots can’t breathe. Footsteps, tools and hands may further compact the air spaces between particles of soil.
Despite the itch to get out and plant the seedlings you have been nurturing, pay attention to the soil. A simple check will give you an idea of whether it’s time to work the soil: take a handful of soil from the garden bed, compress it in your hands — if it forms into a sticky, wet solid mass, then it’s still too wet.
Alternatively, if the wad of soil forms a loose ball that breaks apart easily when tossed in the air, then it’s ready. Even if the ground is too saturated to work in the garden there are some things that may help home gardeners for planning future plantings.
Tips before you plant
Look around the yard — notice areas of pooling. Water that pools around plants is not ideal — plants can develop root rot and may harbor bacteria.
Check downspouts — if the spout is causing pooling, extensions that direct the runoff can be added to existing downspouts. An extension can be added (even if it’s raining) to keep rain form collecting around the house.
Don’t forget the potted plants that may be sitting out — they can be swamped easily.
Look around the property to ensure that standing water isn’t accumulating in trash cans, pots or other containers that hold water. These could potentially be perfect breeding sites for mosquitos.
These rainy days are also a good time to pot-up seedlings that may have been previously sown. Seedlings may benefit from heat mats or warm growing sites.
These are great days to further consider and draw out garden plans — where will the tomatoes go this year?
As soon as the soil is less saturated, radishes, carrots and beets can be direct seeded.
Plan to attend a Master Gardener workshop — these are free of charge and held indoors at the Grass Valley Elk’s Lodge, 109 So. School St., until later this spring when we will offer workshops at the demonstration garden.
Today’s workshop from 10 a.m. to noon is “Gardening Smart, Not Hard” — where the focus will be on ways to help gain excitement and efficiency from your gardening tasks. Find out how to detect what activities waste time and effort, and how easy it can be to avoid many “gardening inefficiencies.”
On March 31, “Practical Irrigation in Nevada County” will be presented, on April 7 there will be an “Introduction to Vegetable Gardening” and on April 14 we will be offering “Firewise Landscaping.”
Mark May 12 on the calendar for the Spring Plant Sale. A list of plants to be offered for sale is available on the website at http://ncmg.ucanr.org.
For more information about Master Gardener workshops and events, go to the website at or call the Hotline at 530-273-0919.
Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.
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