by Charlene Burgi
What a whirlwind week! The rains came before the freezing temperatures and our beautiful plants were spared snow damage. The weekend then sported sunshine that lured many of us into the garden to assess impacts from the freeze. It was also a good opportunity to note other indicators of garden health, while we soaked up the sun.
A break in the weather can provide time to see what we can do to improve our gardens. For example, are you walking in mud to get to certain areas of the garden? Is this a commonly used path?
Treading on soil, especially when wet, will cause soil compaction. As soil compacts it loses the space for water and air, which results in runoff during a rainstorm or irrigation. Compacted soil also can’t sustain the microbial organisms that feed the soil and keep our environment and plants healthy. Before you experience this condition in your garden, consider installing a permeable surface pathway using decomposed granite (DG) to decrease soil compaction for permanent walks. The DG will absorb the rainwater and contribute to the health of your soil.
If the vegetable garden is a source for foot traffic in winter, place a row of large stepping stones or lengths of 2 x 12 for a temporary path. This enables you to distribute your weight over a larger area and minimize the damage to the pore spaces in the soil below. The pathways are temporary and provide a clean walkway during winter without compromising the soil.
Puddles are also an indicator that more organic material could be added to the soil to create that “living sponge” for which we strive. Focus on sheet mulching, adding organic compost and planting sunflowers this spring that will send roots down and break through compacted soils. These steps will aid in keeping the water on site instead of sending it off to storm drains.
If you would like to learn more about soils, compost and sheet mulching, plan to attend the next FREE Bay-Friendly class on March 12 at Marin Art and Garden Center. The event will be held in the tent area on the northeast side of the property from 9:00 a.m.-noon. Dress warmly, bring garden gloves and learn to do the “compost dance.” Click here to register.