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Stay off the mud!

Friday morning hail turned flower beds white in Sacramento's Greenhaven/Pocket neighborhood. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Wet soil can lead to compaction and complications

Look before you step.
All this rain has over-saturated the soil in many places, particularly spots with clay soil or poor drainage. Unable to absorb any more moisture, our yards may have become waterlogged – and more rain is forecast.
This week, Sacramento already has received more than 3 inches of rainfall. Friday’s thunderstorms dumped more (plus unexpected hail in some neighborhoods).
That excess moisture can drown plant roots, especially if the soil becomes compacted.
Stay off waterlogged soil, advises UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners. Your footprints can do lasting damage.
Walking or rolling wheels on wet soil can cause compaction, depriving plant roots and microorganisms of the air and space they need. Healthy soil contains tiny air pockets that allow plant roots and microbes to “breathe.” Compaction squeezes out that necessary air. Plants die and so do the tiny organisms that make a healthy soil.
Imagine a ball of wet clay. What happens when you squeeze it? It becomes very hard and dense; you don’t want that to happen to your soil.
To avoid compacting soil, lay planks across the wet spots and use those to access your garden, if needed. Otherwise, give your garden time for the excess water to percolate down, run off or evaporate.
The hailstones will just add to the soggy conditions here
when they melt. Stepping stones are a good idea in
areas that stay wetter long. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)
For future access, consider placing stepping stones in areas that tend to stay wetter longer. Just don’t lay the stones until the soil dries out.
During this wet weather, notice where water is pooling in your garden and make a note on improving drainage. Don’t let water pool next to your home’s foundation, fences or other structures; it will lead to expensive repairs. Instead, redirect it away from the house.
Low spots may have potential as “rain gardens,” areas where storm water is allowed to pool temporarily and slowly sink down. That deeply irrigates nearby trees, shrubs and perennials. But remember:  Most plants don’t like standing in water, even for a day or two. Plant a rain garden with plants that can take the wet, but also are happy with dry conditions the rest of the time.
Don’t forget potted plants during storms. Their containers can fill up with rain, drowning the plants inside. Tip pots sideways so water can drain out.
Bonsai and succulents are at greatest risk from too much moisture. If possible, move these plants under eaves where they can get some protection during stormy water.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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