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Del Norte Gardening: Rain has punished the early planters

Del Norte Gardening runs monthly. Paul Madeira and Julie Jo Ayer Williams own Ocean Air Farms in Fort Dick.

Welcome to the wet and wild spring of 2012!

It’s the darndest thing trying to grow food in the garden 12 months out of the year. For months we’ve had no trouble finding a break in the rain to get out on the soil. Then March happened!

Fall and most of the winter had been good to us, with lots of sun.  Perhaps this spring is where we’ll see lots of rain, more wind and more rain.

Sounds familiar, right? Hopeful garden season thrown out the door due to incessant late rains? The last two years (2010 and 2011) have brought cool, wet springs, with summer temperatures below average.  Both seasons, we would consider to be challenging gardening years.

So, just like you dear reader, we’re asking ourselves, what kind of growing season are we to be faced with?

It’s the mystery of every year and usually a little difficult to plan around. Last month was a perfect example of the extremes of weather; constant downpour, flooding, wind, hail. All things that make a spring garden nearly impossible.

For the last several years we have had an informal expectation that everything planted outside, before  May 15, was in the “high risk” category. We could not depend on it to succeed.

Often, we’ve been pleasantly surprised; many times, however, we’ve had to replant. That is our experience with extra early planting, it’s really hard to plan around.  To harvest fresh food in the second quarter (April, May, June) takes tenacity. The other option is to not plant early and have nothing ready to harvest early.

Nearly everyone we talk farm with is whining about the weather and the lack of gardening. But remember, a wonderful vegetable garden with ample food for preserving can be had if planted in the second half of May.

If the rain has got your spot flooded, or you still need to make some adjustments, use mid-May for a timeline. The trick is to have ample time to turn the soil and therefore break down plant residues, (we prefer a month).

 So, now is the time to be prepared for some digging or rototilling. Take advantage of the dry days we get. You never know when it’s going to rain again (and for how long).

The way we see it, in our cool and very wet climate, if you can plant, grow, and harvest food in the spring, your gardening is exceptional. If you can manage to prepare your garden in the spring and plant before June you are doing good. So, remember you can always consider a “cautious” start, with future goals to take advantage of a beautiful fall and mild winter.

As this column is being written we’re on the second day of what was predicted to be another rainy spell. It’s cold and looks like it could rain at any time, but it’s not, and the soil is continuing to dry after the two or three sunny days we’ve just had.

 If you just can’t resist planting in early April, you’re going to have to settle for some less than perfect days to be working in.  We’ll be right there with you.  Good Luck!

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