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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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