So its raining again. There are a few good days of nice sun shine that will dry out the soil and then BAM, Rain! While rain is a great thing, sometimes there is just to much that comes down at a time. Right now part of my beds are looking like a pond/lake. Last Saturday after a storm blew through my dad and I where out there trying to make the water drain faster off of the beds. I pray that I will not have to do that again this summer. For now there is just tons of time for self reflection, planning, studying for summer classes :S, and praying for a week of sunshine.

For you adventurous gardeners out there that want to brave the rain and mud take a look at this article:


Gardening in the rain

by Marion Owen Kodiak Daily Mirror
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Primroses love cool growing conditions, making them the perfect flowering plant for Kodiak.	(Marion Owen photo) 

Spring is here and “we’re all anxious to get out and start working, cleaning up the beds and planting,” says longtime gardener Norma Holt.

Norma’s right. But last week was a wet one and it’s not the best time to dig in the soil, even if you’re wearing a full set of Helly Hansen rain gear………

How to garden when it’s wet

Many people like to sing in the rain, but to garden in the rain? Not always a good idea.

When soil is waterlogged, plants literally drown. Water fills all the air spaces (critical highways for moving nutrients between the soil particles) and this prevents oxygen from reaching the roots. In turn, this causes the soil to stagnate and prevents root growth.

Gardening in raised beds and adding organic matter helps promote soil that drains properly, and hoops covered with plastic sheds all moisture from a “sky that leaks,” as one visitor dubbed last week’s weather. Still, a string of steady, heavy rain can cause problems. Here are a few tips to follow:

• Be patient; day or two of waiting makes all the difference. Many anxious gardeners work the soil when it is still too wet. But experts from Vancouver to Florida say that the soil should not be tilled, turned or spaded until it is “sufficiently dry to crumble when worked.” You can use the “squeeze” test to determine if your soil is ready. With a spade, turn over a slice of soil about 6 to 8 inches deep.

Now pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it. If the soil remains in a tight ball when you let go, wait several days (without rainfall) or cover your beds with plastic for a few days before spading or tilling. If the soil crumbles when pressure is released, it is ready for working and planting. Soils that are high in volcanic ash content (and are not amended with compost, kelp and so on) are easily damaged if worked when too wet.

• If you insist on moving plants or transplanting them in wet soil, do so with as little impact (turning and working the soil) as possible. If you can, wait until the soil is just slightly moist, not saturated. Remember, overworking wet soil causes compaction and worsens the consistency, or crumb, of the soil.

• Avoid walking on the lawn, but if you must, try not to walk on the same path each time. Walking or rolling a wheelbarrow over wet and squishy sod  compacts the soil quicker than you think and causes root damage, giving your lawn a light green or yellow complexion.

How to behave in a greenhouse or hoophouse

Because gardens such as greenhouses and hoophouses are enclosed, they have their own special environment. In some ways, the environment is more fragile and vulnerable than outdoor gardens. Carefully controlling air circulation, moisture (humidity), pest infestations, heat and so on is key to successfully growing much sought-after crops like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cucumbers. 

So as you go in and out of your, or someone else’s, greenhouse or hoophouse, keep a few thoughts in mind.

• Don’t wear fleece clothing: Fleece is a “cling-on” fabric, attracting dirt and pests (especially aphids) that can hitch a ride right onto a squash leaf without anyone being the wiser. One aphid is all it takes to launch an army.

• Wipe your shoes: Slugs, from full-sized adults to babies, can also hitch a ride. Scrape your shoes or better yet, dip them in a tub of water or rinse them off with a hose. Like aphids, one slug is all it takes to start an army.

• Don’t wear gloves from the outside garden to the greenhouse. It’s too easy to transfer pests and diseases from one space to another. Keep a separate pair of gloves in the greenhouse/hoophouse.

Walt Loewen, another longtime Kodiak gardener (and tomato guru) declared last week’s weather as “raw.” While raw weather might not be the best time to play in the soil, use the time wisely: Get out and pick slugs!

Saturday market at the fairgrounds

After you visit the plant sale in town, hop out to the fairgrounds to see the new farmers’ and crafters’ market. June 4 marks the opening day of summer-long Saturday markets featuring fresh produce and farm products as well as local hand-crafted items. Doors open at 10 a.m. and will run generally until 2 p.m. With the increase in local eggs and locally-grown produce (thanks to hoophouses and low tunnels) the Saturday Market is a logically complement to the successful Bear Town Market held on cruise ship days.

For more information, contact Bernie (487-2885) or Heather (487-2175).

Garden tours Aug. 6 and 7

Mark your calendars for the popular two-day garden tour, hosted by the Kodiak Garden Club. If you have out-of-towners in for a visit, this is a wonderful excuse to get outside and see what tricks Kodiak gardeners use to beat the elements. More details to follow in future columns. And, as a reminder, you can access past Garden Gate columns at Click on Features and scroll to Home and Garden.

Read more: Kodiak Daily Mirror – Gardening in the rain


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