Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring-Are we there yet?

So, it is mid February in the Pacific NW. Today it was breathtakingly sunny, almost 60 degrees, no wind. It feels like May. Some of you unfamiliar with our beautiful home may be watching the Olympics in Vancouver BC and thinking, "we gotta move there." I have bad news. This is highly unusual. Our winters are normally very wet; in 2006, for example, we almost broke our own record with 27 straight days of rain. Yes, I mean every day. My relatives who live in Texas think it is hilarious when our weatherman announces on the TV that he predicts we will have sun-breaks. I think when they say the chance of rain is 20%, they mean chances are, it is going to be raining for 20% of the day. Check out our local station's website; an article posted during that rainy streak makes the breathless pronouncement: "Sun makes brief appearance." I am amused, the photo with that caption shows no sun.
Surprisingly, we have what is considered a Mediterranean climate which, at its most basic, means mild and very wet in the winter and sunny and dry in the summer. This type of climate is extremely rare-to see how rare, check out the map on Wikipedia. Our sunny, dry summer is usually July-August. We used to joke that if summer came on a weekend, we were going to have a picnic. So, what do we do with a misplaced summer week in the middle of February? We shovel poo! Call Mike Rowe! 
Not really, it is actually some very nice compost we ordered from Bailey's Compost in Snohomish. It is about 10% well aged cow manure and the rest is shredded yard waste. There is no odor at all-which is probably because it has been "aging" all winter-and it makes a beautiful mulch. However, we got 10 yards and I've been moving it since Tuesday, so it is starting to lose its appeal. There is no question, though: compost is absolutely the best mulch you can use. An old adage says if you have $10 to spend on your garden, spend $1 on plants and $9 on dirt. That seems crazy, but soil is the key to beautiful plants. Good soil makes healthy plants; the best plants money can buy will still decline in poor soil.
Soil holds water, nutrients and organic matter that are required by plants. Soil is made up of particles; “loam” is a mixture of the two most common particles. Sand has the largest particles, so it drains the fastest and has limited ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Clay has the smallest particles, so it drains very slowly-if at all! Compost improves every kind of soil. Compost helps sandy soil to hold moisture and it breaks up clay, allowing moisture to drain. In all kinds of soil it provides air pockets and micro-organisms which are vital to the health and arability of your soil.
So, if you are starting a garden, be sure to work in plenty of compost before you plant. If you already have a garden, try spreading a 3-4" layer of compost mulch. It will keep down weeds, hold in moisture in the summer, prevent frost heave in the winter, look great and improve your soil. And you won't need to go to the gym for the week you are shoveling.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have more info on Mediterranean climate?