As the snow recedes and the days get longer, we all get the itch to start gardening! We may start fidgeting through our seed packets, take inventory of our tools or dream up garden ideas. All in all, we just want to get our fingers dirty! But wait, how early is too early to start tending to the soil?
Working soil too early can cause problems later in the season. When the ground is still saturated with water from snow or spring rain, it is really easy to be compacted by walking or driving equipment over it. If you start tilling too early, the earth can turn into clumps that will be hard to break after being baked by the sun. Plants love when there there are air pockets between soil particles. Saturated soil doesn’t allow to be broken up into the perfect air-retaining texture that roots thrive in.
So...how do you tell when the soil dry enough to be worked? The best way to test the earth is by grabbing yourself a handful of dirt and creating a ball. If the ball can be easily broken apart by pinching it, then the soil has the right consistency. If the ball doesn’t lose its shape or breaks with force into large clumps, then it is too saturated. Clay soil that is wet will feel slimy when pinched between your fingers. Working waterlogged soil can ruin the texture for the whole year.
We have all patiently waited months to start gardening again, it is all of our best interests to wait it out a little longer to begin digging.