January 22, 2006

I'm not sure what the official standing (in terms of records) of our recent rainy period is, but you don't need me to tell you it's been wet. I thought I'd take a break from ark-building to tell you how it's faring at the Saling homestead.

Most of the time I love living in the valley. The soils are great - deep and fertile. The area is still fun to live in: houses are going up at an alarming rate, but there are still enough farms around that I can pretend I live in the country.

Also, for the past several years, we haven't had to deal with any ersatz ponds forming in our backyard... until this year. That's the bad part of living in the valley. Given our area's glacial history, most of the Puget Sound region's valley soils have a very fine clay layer that's down a few feet. Water can't move through that layer very fast, so when we get a lot of rain over a long period of time, we experience what's known as a "perched" water table. That means the deeper subsoil isn't saturated with water; but everything from that clay layer on up is completely soaked.

This presents a problem for the year round gardener. If you've read much of my writing, you know I advocate using raised beds, cloches, and hoophouses. This is all your cold-hardy plants need to survive up in our corner of the world - most winters, anyway. But plant roots do need at least some air; and when we have this much water to deal with, a few puny inches of elevated garden bed is woefully inadequate. Basically, when you find your garden in this situation, plants are going to die.

All you can do in this case is write it off to experience. Don't dwell on what didn't work this winter; think about the great harvests from other years. That's the thing about gardening - you have to have some tolerance for failure. It'll help you deal with losing a good chunk of your winter crops; but, more importantly (to my mind), it's also what enables you to experiment with new plants and new techniques. Learn from your failures, but also be sure to notice that occasionally nature will just throw you an unhittable sinking curveball. Take a deep breath, watch the water go down, and get ready for your spring planting.

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This page was last updated November 18, 2013