Interpreting "As soon as the soil can be worked"

northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)April 8, 2013

I m sure you have all read that sentence on seed packages. I am gardening in Zone 5, where I have snowdrops in my front garden, snow, ice, and water in my back garden, and the temps. dipping below zero most nights. I want to start my multiplier onions, but I want to have a more definitive indicator than "As soon as the soil can be worked". I just finished digging violet tubers out of the ground, which is just mud. Must the soil be dry and pliable? What other indicator do you use?

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ianna(Z5b)

It means when there is no more danger of frost. Victoria Day weekend is a safe bet for most. However if you are like me and I prefer to plant out earlier, I check the weather forecast for a consistent above 10 degree temperatures, and the grounds are not too muddy to work with. Or you wish to start your onions indoors under lights. Or if you those seed bulbs, then wait for the grounds to get warm for planting out.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 10:08PM
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greylady_gardener

any time that I have seen that said on a gardening program, they demonstrate by picking up a handful of soil and giving it a squeeze. It should form a soft clump and be dry enough to crumble easily......kind of like a brownie mixture (their words).....dry and crumbly but moist enough to stick together.
If it is wet enough that it stays together in a wet ball or even drips water, then you should let it dry out a bit more. Working soil when it is too wet will lead to compaction problems.
I pulled a couple of dead annuals out of the garden yesterday and the soil that came up looked moist, but crumbly.....I should probably get out there and pull a few more things that need pulling before it freezes up on me again....sigh! I am getting anxious.... lol!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 6:53AM
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ianna(Z5b)

greylady- --good analogy.. brownie. I like that.

Right now, if I step into my backyard, my feet will sink into the yard. I've not seen worms come up yet.. (another indication that it's near time to plant outdoors). So in my area, it's not ready yet for any planting, except sprinkling seeds. I've been cleaning the yard, removing dead branches, pruning, removing mulch, raking up old leaves.. transplanting plants,... so much back breaking work. I've yet to work on my veggie garden plot.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 10:31AM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Thanks, Ianna and Greylady. I am very anxious to get things going this year. I always get busy with the indoor seedlings and I find myself putting in my green onions late. I went out today and found that my raised bed had the right 'feel' to it, but we have a snow storm in the forecast for Friday, so I guess I'll hold off until it passes. Hope you have better weather than we are expecting.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 3:33AM
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ianna(Z5b)

Dear northerner,

It's just far too early to put anything in the ground. Plus your seedlings would need to go through a hardening process. If you happen to have a greenhouse or a cold frame, you could set your seedlingss out a little earlier but these would still have to be hardened off. Its' just too cold to have it set outdoors. One more late storm and all your plants would be gone. Be patient. Warm weather will come out soon.

Ianna

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 3:24PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Thanks for your help, Ianna. I was not thinking of putting seedlings out now, I was wondering about my onion sets (for multiplier onions) in particular. My garlic which I planted last fall is already up, so are my Allium christophii, and Allium moly, and I figure they are in the same family and are also bulbs, so it may be OK. What do you think about that logic? Ayway I have to wait a bit longer anyway. We had a horrible storm last night and everything is under snow/ice again, which will turn to water in another few days so I can't do anything for another while yet. The ice destroyed my snowdrops and my miniature irises which were so pretty. Hope they 'bounce' back.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 1:52AM
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ianna(Z5b)

ornamental alliums and garlics require a different treatment than say spring onions. Ornamentals stay in the ground for winter. Garlics require a full winter before maturing. Entirely different from spring onions.

I suggest you read your seed packets. If it says, start indoors, then by all means start them indoors under lights. Seed packets will have all the instructions you need.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 3:45PM
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