I trust you are all enjoying this spring prequel as much as I am. I’m headed outdoors for a walk, right after I finish recording. I wish I was headed outside to work in the garden, but we’re not quite there yet. Soon, but not quite.
Which brings me to this week’s question: What does “as soon as the soil is ready to be worked” actually mean?
Well, I can tell you that is does not mean as soon as you can get a shovel into it. When the considerable amount of snow we have on the ground finishes melting, the soil is going to be very, very, very wet. Wet soil is not ready to be worked. It’s not even ready to be walked on.
Walking on soggy soil will cause it to compact and lose all its air pockets. Plant roots, to say nothing of all the other things that live in our soil, need air to survive. So step gently around the garden beds until they dry out.
The same goes for cultivating. Water logged soil will clump when it’s turned. If you have clay soil, you’ll be left with lumpy bricks, when it dries. Even if your soil is loose, you will ruin its texture by turning it before it dries.
As for planting, it’s even trickier, because you don’t just want dry soil, you want to let it warm a bit too. You can test that it’s dry enough to plant by sticking your shovel down several inches into the soil. If the blade comes up with mud clinging to it, it’s too soon to plant. If it comes up clean, it may be ready.
Another test for dryness is to grab a handful of soil and form it into a ball. If it falls apart with a gentle tap of your finger, it’s probably dry enough to plant. If it requires pressure to break or if it just flattens when you press it, it’s still too wet.
But the test I trust the most is this: sit on the soil for a few minutes. If you don’t feel cold and it doesn’t feel like your pants seat is getting damp, you are good to go. Not the most high tech test, I know, but it’s portable and it works.
If you’re ready for a real dose of spring, come join me at the Capital District Flower Show, at the Hudson Valley Community College, in Troy, on Friday, March 27th. I’ll be giving my Gardener’s Tour of the Hudson Valley and I’d love to chat with you.
Right now, I thank you so much for listening today and I hope you will join me here again next week and on the web site at www.gardeningthehudsonvalley.com, for more gardening tips from the most beautiful place on earth.