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Good Time For Architectural Digging

There’s a big midwinter thaw going on here in Upstate New York. Yesterday, we were rolling the warm snow into snow forts. By this afternoon, even the largest of those snow forts was almost gone.

Garden lore says that it’s bad news to work the soil during a winter thaw, because the ground is very soggy with the melt. It’s true that the structure of garden soil can be wrecked by wet digging, but then, there are times when the structure of the soil isn’t so important.

Today, I got done some important work digging a trench into which I laid the bottom of a wire fence that will keep hungry animals of many kinds from coming into my vegetable garden to have a snack. I’m counting on the garden for more food than usual this year, and so it’s important that the garden protection be ready right from the start of planting season.

As I dug the trench, the soil certainly clumped up and was compressed against the shovel, but then, the fence line isn’t really for planting, other than for me to allow some siberian iris to spread along its line, eventually to be eclipsed by some sprigs of butterfly bushes I transplanted out of a temporary winter spot. Those bushes will eventually grow to about 9 feet tall, easily preventing deer from jumping over while still allowing sun to reach over them down to the green leaves I’ll be tending inside the patch.

A dig of this kind in the winter will save me time later, so that I’ll be able to turn over more well-drained soil and plant it with peas and spinach, perhaps in three months’ time.

2 thoughts on “Good Time For Architectural Digging”

  1. Jim says:

    Is the structure of the soil mostly about aeration, or is there more to it than that?

    1. J. Clifford says:

      It’s more than simple aeration, yes. There are things like worm holes and plant roots, and pockets of organic material, not to mention little grubby larva that are hunkering down under the surface for the winter.

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