Many gardeners, farmers and landscape professionals are ready to throw in their soggy towels in complete despair this spring. Many of us are tempted to get out there in our rubber boots and “just do it” anyway, but we’d do well to proceed with caution.
Stomping around in the too wet garden bed is simply not a good idea because it causes soil compaction; soil is fragile and should be handled with care.
The right combination of air, soil and water is a delicate balance, and when we compact our soil it reduces the air flow and limits our baby plant root system’s ability to flourish. If we take care of our soil, it will reward us with wonderful results. While the saturated soil is not the best for planting, there are many things we can do while the ground dries out a bit.
Landscape projects that have been put on the back burner because planting, weeding and harvesting took precedence last season are good things to tackle if the soil is too wet. Is there a fence that needs mending — or installed? Is there a garden bed border that would add the perfect touch? If you’ve been considering taking out an area of turf and turning it into a perennial bed, now is a good time to do it; just try not to further compact the new bed in the process.
Container plantings are popular during wet springs, and help satisfy our seasonal appetites by getting our hands in the (potting) soil and planting our herbs, vegetables and colorful annuals.
How do we know if our soil is ready to do its work? There is a very simple soil test that will give you the answer. Pick up a small handful of soil and squeeze it together as if making a ball. If you are able to squeeze water out of the soil or it stays in a ball when you open your hand, it’s too wet. If, on the other hand, it breaks apart easily when you bounce it in your hand or toss it in the air, it’s safe to plant and do all those other wonderful spring gardening chores we love so much. Whether it’s digging, planting or weeding, loose, moist soil is the ideal.
We all know that mulching is fabulous, and hopefully we finished our fall mulching in a timely fashion; if we did, it is helping tremendously. Mulch reduces weed growth, protects our perennials from extreme temperatures, helps limit soil erosion and run-off, retains moisture and helps to create an organically rich soil ecosystem as it breaks down. If we didn’t do our mulching, we’re likely looking at a lot of weeds right now.
Depending on your garden’s location, perhaps now is the time to get some neglected (or dream!) projects underway, and this soggy spring will serve as a reminder that end of the season mulching more than pays us back for our efforts.
Rae Punzel is a Kenosha writer and horticulturalist. She owns Bennu Organics, a horticulture services and consulting business. Contact her at email@example.com.