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Nope, Not Yet
April 08, 2013

A pair of Mallard ducks enjoying the pond.

Two weeks ago, the pond was a frozen wasteland.

More and more song birds and fowl are pairing up.

Fewer ducks stop by for their evening feed.

The small flock of Canada geese have gone their way to nesting sights.

It is well known that geese mate for life, however that isn't the case for ducks.

Eventually the Male (Drake) duck will go his own way and leave the nesting and all family duties to the female.

With geese and swans, both parents participate in the duties.

Fewer birds are visiting my yard, or so it seems.

Yet more and more, the air is filled with song.

More and more, the American Goldfinches (males) are changing over to their summer, or breeding plumage.

Well past sunset, the Male robins call out.

Spring has arrived.

(Pictured are a few yard birds.)

Ever so slowly spring type weather is hitting Lower Michigan..

We touched 50 degrees once or twice this past week.

The sun is high enough in the sky that when the wind wasn't kicking up, it felt warmer than the actual air temperature.

The first week of April was uneventful around here.

Don't get me wrong, casual joy is a very important gift to cherish.

Sitting on the deck, with a cup of coffee, a good book, in the sun, without a jacket on (for the first time).

That is simple, or casual joy my friends.

Add the sweet music of a good wind chime and I'm a happy camper.

A gift from our Creator, I really give thanks for.

I've been tempted to work in the yard and beds, but I know better.

Though I have picked up some wind blown trash and a few twigs.

Unless your grounds are dry, it is wise to keep your yard activity to a minimum.

Here is why.


Redundancy is Good.

I know I say this just about every year, but every year we get new readers to this newsletter and many are beginning gardeners, so it’s worth repeating.

Every region has a traditional kickoff to vegetable gardening season.

Sometimes, gardening folklore tells us we should be planting our potatoes, peas and such, for a good harvest.

The key to getting into the garden and flower beds, is more than just a date on a calendar.

Weather conditions also dictate when we can get outside to play.

Are you concerned that it is too cold, or too wet to plant, or transplant?

Don't be concerned if you fall behind with gardening chores.

Be more concerned about your soil.

I know, I know.

There is that urge (almost irresistible) to get out in the dirt.

Kill weeds, get your hands dirty.

To smell the earth.

Yet, doing this when the soil is cold and damp is the worse thing you can do for your plants and gardens.

Be Strong and Resist.

It is best to resist the temptation to work any soil when wet.

Doing so destroys the structure of the soil, resulting in clods that may not break down all summer.

Structure is important.

It dictates how air and water move through the soil.

Working wet soil will pack soil particles tightly, leaving less room for water and air to penetrate.

Compacted soil also makes it more difficult for plant roots and gardening equipment to move through the soil.

The compression forms tight clumps of soil that become hard as rocks upon drying and are difficult to break up. In addition to making it difficult for plants to grow.

Compacted soils also tend to drain more slowly, in turn delaying the ability to work the soil after the next rainfall.

Once the structure is destroyed it will take work and more effort to build it back into a good form.

Indeed, it will take many years to rebuild a healthy soil structure,

This will require additional organic matter, proper tillage, and winter freezing and thawing to help restore the structure as the soil particles break apart naturally.

Here is a handy tip to determine if soil is too wet to work; grab a handful and squeeze.

If water comes out, it is much too wet.

Even if no water drips out, it still may not be dry enough to work.

Push a finger into the soil you squeezed.

If it crumbles, it is dry enough.

But if your finger just leaves an indentation, more time is needed.

Be sure to take your handful of soil from the depth you plan to work the soil.

The deeper you go into the soil the more moisture it will have compared, to the surface.

Tilling the soil in the fall helps with spring prep issues.

When the soil is prepared in the fall all that is needed is a light raking and the upper surface dries most rapidly so that you can plant easier, reducing the wet soils issues.

This also reduces over tillage which will destroy the structure.

Yes, gardening time is just around the corner, but don’t rush the temptation to work the soil when its wet, as the ill effects can linger all season long.

Not Yet.

Don't mulch until the soil has had a chance to warm up.

Here in the north, it takes some time for the sun to get high and hot enough to sterilize our soil.

You guys in warmer climates like the deep south, should wait a bit longer too.

Powdery mildew and a other fungus aren't killed by our cold winters.

They remain atop the soil.

You want that soil blasted by sun before you mulch for the summer.

I know it's tempting to mulch right now, when perennials are small and it's easy to get the mulch down on the soil surrounding the plants.

Mulch keeps the soil temperatures down (cold this time of year).

Your established plants can't warm up.

New planting go into shock when their feet (roots) get cold.

I want my plants to have every advantage possible and warm soil is to everyone's advantage.

Sure you see Landscape companies busily tossing down mulch right now.

I've said many times, Landscapers don't always know what they are doing, they simply have an order to fill.

And for crying out loud...............................

No volcano mounds around trees.

Mulch piled up around trees is an invite for more problems down the road.

Wet tree bark can separate from the tree (called crown rot).

This invites insects and fungus into a tree and a slow death will follow.

Choose wisely now and you will have fewer issues later on.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.

Stanley Baldwin

Jesus promise to us is a light load, not to weigh us down.

"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Matthew 11:30

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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