March 17th, 2015
The melting of the snow, the return of sane temperatures, and the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day – the unofficial central-Pa. pea-planting milestone – has stir-crazy gardeners chomping at the bit to get out in the dirt.
Not so fast.
I know you’re antsy, but before you dig, give the ground a chance to dry out.
Even though the snow cover is gone, the moisture it left behind will take some time to drain and evaporate in most yards.
Digging in or walking on soggy soil can ruin its structure by forcing out air spaces, leaving you with compacted clods that roots struggle to penetrate – especially in clay soil.
Once you mess up the soil structure, it’s hard to fix.
This is the time when raised beds and compost-amended, well drained soil really pay off.
Those kinds of gardens dry out within days of a snow melt and also warm quicker, giving raised-bed gardeners a jump on gardeners still staring at a cold mud pit.
Of course, raised beds also dry out faster in summer, so the tradeoff is more watering then in exchange for an earlier start now.
How do you know if the soil is ready for digging and planting?