With all the rain we have been having lately, plants are growing and gardeners are itching to go outside and work. But you need to make certain the ground is not too wet to work in. If soils are worked in while too wet, its particles pack together.
Soil that is healthy is almost one-half pore space. This pore space allows water and air to move through it freely. Soil which has been compressed pushes out the water and air from the pore spaces. Not only will the soil become hard, plants’ roots will have a difficult time tunneling through the soil and getting the nutrients they need. Microorganisms which help the soil will also have no place to live.
The bad new is, once soil has been compacted, it may take years to undo the damage. Compaction can also happen driving over soggy soil with heavy equipment. Think of the trails still visible from pioneers traveling in wagons across the country.
The good news, however, is that you can help compacted soil get healthy again. Add organic matter and grow annuals to help break it up and make it friable. You may wish to do a soil test every year or so to make certain the organic matter is increasing. A good goal is between five and 15 percent organic matter.
How do you know if your soil is ready to be worked? Take a bit of your soil and form a ball. It should crumble when you strike it. If, however, it does not fall apart or shows an imprint, give it another day or two to dry out. Do not till, plow, dig, or run anything heavy over it. Even lawnmowers can compact soil that is too wet.
Soil that is sandy will be quicker to dry than clay soil because sandy soil allows for more pore space. Clay soils have smaller sized particles which will stick together more easily.
When the days are sunny, have fun working in your garden. But make certain you are not hurting your soil by jumping into working it too quickly after a rain.
For more information, call 903-675-6130, email hendersonCMGA@gmail.com, or visit txmg.org/hendersonmg.
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