Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Resist that gardening urge

Where I live here in Northern Indiana, we have received rain, rain and more rain plus the colder temperatures this spring. Does this sound like where you live? You may be wondering if you ever will be able to get to your garden ( and fields) to plant. Hopefully, the weather will soon cooperate so we can get to planting! I have been trying so hard to resist this gardening urge. It seems my garden starts to dry out a bit and then comes some more rain. I was very lucky a few weeks back to get my turnips, onions, lettuce, carrots, spinach and radishes planted and then worried myself sick when it never stopped raining. I was thinking I thought I probably planted for nothing as the seeds probably all washed away. The little seeds are sprouting now. This sure is a load off my mind now. Many gardeners are getting that itch to get out that tiller and work up there garden soil who wasn't as lucky as me to get that tilling done early before all this rain. Many areas are still soggy from snow melt and rain, making soils too wet to work. Here is a little bit of info on reasons to wait for the soil to dry out before planting in your garden. My dad who was a farmer and is an avid gardener once told me whether you use a tiller or just a garden spade, working wet soil can badly compact soil, and will have negative effects lasting for many years. Working wet soil will pack soil particles tightly leaving less room for water and air to penetrate. Compacted soil also makes it more difficult for plant roots and gardening equipment to move through the soil. The compression forms tight clumps of soil that become hard as rocks upon drying and are difficult to break up. This is especially true for those with clay like soil. Compacted soil soils also tend to drain more slowly, in turn delaying the ability to work the soil after the next rainfall. Once compacted, it will take many years to rebuild a healthy soil structure, requiring annual applications of organic matter, such as animal wastes or perhaps growing a green manure crop, such as annual rye or winter wheat. The best course of action is to prevent compaction in the first place. To determine if your garden's soil is dry enough to work, dig a trowel full of soil and squeeze it in your hand. Soil that crumbles through your fingers when squeezed is ready to garden. I have seen my dad do this numerous times when growing up. If however, the soil forms a muddy ball, give the soil another few days to dry and sample again later. In the meantime, you can soothe that gardening itch by sketching garden plans, making a shopping list for your local garden center and browsing online. I have most all my plants bought now including my seeds. I will be ready for action when the soil does dry enough to work.


  1. I just got the cooler weather crops in the garden yesterday. We haven't had a ton of rain, but we've had snow - a foot of it the last week of April! Today it's about 60 degrees out and I think the snow is done. Our soil dries out in a day's time because it's mostly sand.

    Dad told me a lot of his seeds probably rotted in the ground because he got the urge to plant too early. Hope it takes off soon.

  2. Hmmmm...Dad and Sheila told me all of our peas are coming up nicely. However Dad was getting a bit stressed earlier about his seeeds. I have sandy loam soil also and dries quickly which is good with all the rain we have had. But, with people with clay like soil it is another story. I finally got to plant my red potatoes, broccoli, head lettuce, brussel sprouts and cabbage yesterday afternoon after checking the soil. Helping Dad and Sheila tomorrow.

  3. It's been a while since Dad talked to me about the peas. He was probably overly worried about them. Glad they're popping through.