The Shoulder Season: With spring comes mud
A February 2011 precipitation map generated with measured data by Oregon State University’s PRISM Climate Group shows the ridiculousness that is spring in Oregon’s mid Willamette Valley and Coast Range.
It rained 7 inches in March. There wasn’t a single day that didn’t put at least a trace of precipitation on the record books. I almost lost it. And not because I’m anywhere sweet enough to melt. Nor because I have a hankering for summer. No, I came close to the brink for a much more tangible reason.
Red clay soil the color of old brick, gone wet, sticky, slippery. Reaching up over the toes of my boots, passing my ankles, climbing over the hem of my jeans and up the backs of my legs, it sticks to everything and travels with me into the kitchen, the office, the grocery store where I tell Sue, my favorite checker, that I’m moments from trading in my seed money for a ticket to anywhere with a humidity index less than 99.
Sue’s response: You must be planning on a lot of seeds.
I am, but at home behind the deer fence I haven’t planted a single one.
The rain has turned the garden plot into a gumbo of iron rich minerals, thistle, and rocks. Every time I muck my way across the swath of field between the house and the (eventual) garden, I take with me 5 lbs of earth. 2.5 lbs on each foot. I fear that any effort to prep the soil for planting will only result in increased soil compaction and damage to the matrix.
When I sink a spade into garden the soil comes out in large cohesive chunks. I could build a brick oven from this stuff. It seems the option is to wait. Wait for the rain to stop. The soil to dry. Wait for sun and temperatures above 45 degrees.
The other option, and possibly more productive, is to consult my resources and begin figuring out what my (eventual) garden will need to counter act all the wet. To Extension I go.
First, a monthly garden calendar with suggestions and reminders on what I can be doing in the each month.
Then on to the Extension catalog to find out how to complete/plan for the suggested tasks (and my own big dreams. The catalog contains publications on interpreting the result of a soil test, increasing my soil quality, and assessing the state of my soil over time. There are also guides to growing my own vegetables and starting seeds indoors just in case the rain doesn’t stop any time soon.
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