Why all this rain can be bad for gardening

In the face of all this rain, California gardeners may be tempted to plant in the soft, damp soil following years of drought.  

Experts advise against it, however, as digging in overly wet soil can lead to “compaction,” a condition where water access and root growth are restricted. And that means your fledgling plants will struggle to grow out from all that heavy dirt.

Los Altos gardening expert Rosalind Creasy, author of “Edible Landscaping,” recommends waiting a few days after rains have finished to plant, especially if you have clay soil. “If you have sandy soils you have more latitude because they don't readily compact,” she said.

Horticulturist Lili Singer of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants in Sun Valley, takes it a step further, advising against even walking on wet soil for fear of compaction.  

Digging in waterlogged soil can cause soil texture to change and become more dense, according to Richard Hayden, head gardener at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “And if you’re tamping in wet soil around the plant you just planted, you could be relegating that plant to the gardening equivalent of ‘cement shoes,’ ” Hayden added.  

Bottom line: Feel your soil to get a sense if it is too moist for digging. And when in doubt, it’s best to wait. 


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