Soggy Soil Delays Planting

Doug Decker tilling the vegetable garden
Doug Decker tilling the vegetable garden

With some Champlain Valley residents being evacuated by boat and the Wesport Marina totally flooded, we’re feeling fortunate that a submerged boathouse and waterfront is the extent of our flooding problems.

Although we have our work cut our for us when Lake Champlain water levels drop, another short-term challenge is the super saturated soil. Tilling the vegetable garden has been out of the question, planting more grape vines, fruit trees and shrubs likewise has been suspended lest we drown the roots. Last year, I planted spinach and French Breakfast Radishes in the garden in mid-March, and my bride and I had been gorging on succulent baby spinach for weeks by this point. Not so this year. Some onions and leeks wintered over, but nothing new has been planted in the vegetable garden yet.

The 7.88 inches of rain that fell in April in Burlington is of course a record, and is a full five inches more that what normally falls in the month… The soil is saturated and completely unworkable for farmers, gardeners, vegetable growers and others… To let farmers catch up, we really need at least a couple weeks of warm, dry, sunny weather… (Burlington Free Press)

I received a call from Mr. Murphy, the gentleman who — with his son and sometimes his grandson — has done an unbelievable job of maintaining our lawns for the last two years. He wanted to know when to start mowing lawns for the season. He agreed that the ground was far too saturated and suggested we wait a couple of weeks. I agreed.

Frankly, I’ve agreed with almost every decision Mr. Murphy has made over the last two years. He’s a lawn master. And a weather master. He keeps track of the forecast and works around it, advancing or pushing back our lawn mowing each week per the rain forecast. And so far we’ve never once had an unmowed lawn for the weekend! And he’s nice as can be, always smiling, always ready to let me in on an amusing story or anecdote. He’s famous in these parts for his tomato plants. He raises many hundreds of plants and then sells them to friends and neighbors, donating the profits to the local animal shelter.

In short, I’m a big fan of Mr. Murphy, and when he told me that his greenhouse was flooded, I was sympathetic as only a sunken boathouse owner could be.

Water, water everywhere! We’re all ready for a drought…

Blooming hyacinth perfume the air
Hyacinth perfume the air outside our breakfast room

Actually, today I took matters into my own hands. Despite the notion that a couple of dry weeks would be needed to till and plant, I jumped the gun. Rising lake water had gotten its talons into my spirit, so I decided to ignore the flood and enjoy the first balmy spring day in a while gardening, pruning, landscaping. And you know what? It worked! I only wish I’d tried this approach a few days ago. Maybe Lake Champlain wouldn’t have risen so high.

Doug and I spent part of the morning changing over the tractor from snow plow to backhoe, and then proceeded to rip out a lumber retaining wall at the southeast corner of the old clay tennis court. I suspected that the area contained objectionable refuse (a battery and part of a garden hose had floated to the surface) and the wall had been built altogether too close to the carriage barn resulting in sill and framing rot. I’ll tell the story of what we discovered in another post.

Then we tilled the garden under for the second time, adding plenty of sphagnum moss to help lighten the soil. We were premature. The tines clogged repeatedly, but we made it through which will help the soil dry out. Tomorrow I’m hoping to make another pass and possibly — I dare not pronounce my wish lest I tempt the rain fates — just possibly I’ll be able to plant some spinach and kale. I’d hoped to have the vegetable garden so much further along by now because of some ambitious plans. We’re relocating the asparagus patch from south of the carriage barn to back by the vegetable garden. The strawberry beds will also be moved. And the rhubarb. And blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are arriving in a couple of weeks to be planted. None of these beds have been prepared yet.

But today marked the first major step forward in preparing the vegetable and fruit gardens. And tomorrow, weather permitting, I intend to continue full steam ahead! Fingers crossed…

About virtualDavis

A writer, storyteller and unabashed flâneur, George Davis (aka virtualDavis or G.G. Davis, Jr.) is the author of Rosslyn Redux: Reawakening a home, a dream and ourselves, a transmedia chronicle about rehabilitating an historic property in the Adirondacks with his bride. He blogs about storytelling, poetry, doodling, marginalia, flânerie, publishing, and other creativity-inspired esoterica at; posts sometimes exhilarating, often unnerving, occasionally euphoric, and always pollyanna "midlife mashups" at; chronicles his sailing adventures (and misadventures) at Sailing Errant; and delves into matters of parenting, babylandia, and childfreedom at Why No Kids? George formerly taught and coached at Santa Fe Preparatory School and The American School of Paris, and he co-founded and launched Maison Margaux: "Paris à la parisienne" in Faubourg Saint-Germain. He currently owns and operates Adobe Oasis in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his bride. George meanders on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr.
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2 Responses to Soggy Soil Delays Planting

  1. Pingback: Vegetable Garden Update, June 9, 2011 « Rosslyn Redux

  2. Pingback: Vegetable Garden Update, June 9, 2011 | Rosslyn Redux

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