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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 March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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