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Gardening For Wildlife, Issue #008 Some dirt on dirt
March 19, 2007

I managed to see 10 Sandhill cranes working their way north this part week.

What a bunch of characters they are. Never flying in the same direction, as if they are going no where, yet they manage don't they.

Now that spring is around the corner, I have my first red breasted nuthatch at my peanut feeder.

Go figure huh?

It Is Officially Spring This Week.


First we must get through the transition period that will last for the next month or so.

This past week offered up a big taste of that. We managed to reach the 60's and even a 70 degree day (enough to melt all the snow), only to have the later part of the week return to the 30's.

You know, that time of year when it's 65 one day and snow and 30 the next and back up again.

It doesn't matter to wildlife, they know by the length of day light.

Birds are busy singing away and beginning to jockey for territory. Still others are on the migration trail.

Rabbits are doing their mating rituals.

Have you noticed mammals like chipmunks, skunks and raccoons emerging from their winter homes?

With all the snow melted, we get to see all the filth left from winter.

What we need now is a good spring rain or three to wash it away.

the voles managed to damage a few things with their winter chewing. I'll wait to see what needs to be replaced if at all.

I took Akita out for her first walk on the wild side.

Well, a controlled walk.................. she was on her leash.

This little girl had her nose to the ground virtually every second. Sniffing rabbit tracks and other critters.

When we hit a deer path.......................... look out.

She had her nose everywhere.

We came across a woodchuck hole and I thought she was going to climb all the way in.

She may have, had I not tugged her back :-)

The grounds were to wet to really explore.

Speaking of ground..............................

All the melted snow and warming temperatures have given me the itch.

You may have the same itch I have.

That urge to get out and start digging and pulling etc.

Stop Scratching that Itch before you do harm to your soil.

Come on Ron, it's dirt, how can you harm dirt?

Your soil serves many important duties.

It is home to countless creatures, insects, microbes and plant life.

Life needs oxygen to breathe. and water to drink.

When you are out there walking around and digging in your gardens and beds, you are packing the soil. crushing and squeezing the life giving oxygen. Altering the chemistry so to speak.

Soil that is to wet when we try to work it, looses the ability to breathe and the ability to absorb water may be much less than is needed.

We destroy the dirt's integrity.

Do you ever wonder why some folks aerate their lawn?

We push spikes in or pull out plugs of dirt that let air and water flow more freely.

We turn over the our gardens to allow plants to germinate and grow roots in a fluffy soil.

When we turn the soil over, to soften it up, the plant's roots are able to grow and expand.

Your lawn and gardens are able to suck up more water and food.

They are able to breathe or take in oxygen.


I though plants breathed in carbon dioxide and made oxygen.

Oh so true my friend.

The green part does just that, but the roots take in oxygen from the soil.

If you pack the soil down, the plant looses the ability it needs to take in oxygen and water and will die a slow death.

You can see this happen quite often at construction sights where heavy equipment has packed the ground around existing trees.

All the nice little pockets of oxygen are literally squeezed out of the ground.

You can see trees suffer above from damage done below.

When you are early to work your soil, you are packing things without knowing it.

You may plant something and wonder why it is slow to grow or why it is dying.

Take heart, you can add some relief by aerating the soil as much as possible.

Drill or pound little holes around your plantings to help them breathe, but wait till the ground is a bit drier and easier to work.

A vast majority (about 90%) of a tree and shrub's roots are in the top one foot of soil.

Now you know some dirt about your dirt.

Resist the itch for now.

You soil is workable when you can pick up a handful, and squeeze it. If you can flake it apart or it falls apart your soil is dry enough to work.

If you take that same fist full of soil and it remains as a ball when you try to flake it or you squeeze moisture from it, it is to wet to even think about messing with.

Over time, you can improve your soils ability to breathe by adding compost.

Let some leaf litter remain and work it in over time. Attract earthworms by offering litter and compost.

Worms and insects are "Nature's" aerators.

Oxygen allows microbes to breakdown plant and animal materials.

Materials that feed living plants.

Living plants that feed living animals.

Healthy roots bring healthy plants that provide nectar and food to our wildlife.

Now who would've thought that dirt was so complicated?

Say, I have a list of hummer plants for you. I know things have been left out and in time I will work on it some more, but it gives you a good general idea.

Don't limit your plantings to just your hardiness zone, Feel free to plant tender perennials as an annual.

hummer flowers

I'm back to work full time this week and that will slow me down some on the web site, but I will continue to work as time allows.

I may be a bit slow answering your mail, but I will answer.

Time to fly.

As always, Smile your best.

Smile and confuse someone. :-)

Until next time,

"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. Please feel free to forward this to a friend.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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