The Joy of the Rain

Probably all of us, except perhaps the golfers, enjoyed the current rain. It was long lasting and did a lot of good and gives promise of good spring growth in our wildflowers ( not to mention the weeds!) and shrubs and trees and our vegetable gardens. May it continue for a few days more!

Just driving on our streets tells us that not everyone got the same amount and its worth knowing what you got yourself. Can you measure your share of the rain by observing how wet the street surface is, or what flows from the roof of your house, or what’s in the rain gauge? A most accurate, and useful, measure is how far you can push your soil probe into your soil. A good probe is an old golf club with its head cut off, and they are cheaply available at thrift stores. It’s good to remember that twelve inches of moist soil serves vegetable and flower gardens. Shrubs and bushes benefit from two feet of moist soil and trees benefit from three feet of moist soil. If you discover that the rain has not been enough then a supplementary irrigation will take up the slack This addition is important because you don’t want your plants to respond to an inadequate rainfall.

A good trick to get more moisture than the rain provides is to make “eyebrow” berms on a down slope leaving the upper half open for rain to flow into the area surrounding the tree. Another trick is to dig a ditch,slightly off he contour (to prevent erosion) that brings water from the street or parking area.

Before it rains again you have an opportunity to sprinkle fertilizer lightly around your plants (and do it again should the rain come back again). If it doesn’t rain again you can preserve what moisture there is in the soil by using a mulch. It needs to be three inches thick to do any good. The best material is alfalfa hay because it is high in nutrients whereas wood chips and sawdust supply nothing. Beware of Bermuda grass hay because it most likely has seeds in it. Place a flake of hay round your plants instead of crunching up the material into a state where the wind will scatter it.

Some ambitious gardeners have already put tomato seed in the ground (others have started seeds indoors) and they have noted that the roots go straight down deeply (whereas transplants have bunched-up roots that stay near the surface. Later in he summer the deeper rots find themselves in cooler deeper soil. Direct sowing calls for a Wall-of-Water to keep winds off the seedlings and make the most of sunshine in a mini greenhouse sort of environment. It’s too early to sow seeds of squashes, pepper or eggplant. But gardeners are surprised that the Kales do well in the hot summers, whereas we thought they were only cool season vegetables. You can try sowing bush beans right now. The soil is friendly enough and a fifty-five day variety will give several pickings before the hot summer weather kills the pollen in the flowers.

Pray for more rain !

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