By M.L. WELLS
Special to the OBSERVER
I call it weird weather: hot, out of season - then killing frosts, too wet, too dry, and high winds much more frequently. This is enough to make a gardener grumpy and the garden a hit or miss venture.
To help retain moisture during our too dry periods we should apply mulch in our garden beds. If you had mulch on your beds from last year, it helped retain the winter snow melt; however with our "weird weather" during April and May there was a shortfall of rain and it was barely enough to wet the mulch let alone the soil beneath it. Remember that last year we were short 5+" of rain throughout the season and so far this year we are 3" down. The good news is that we have been experiencing some nice soaking rains in June and a layer of mulch will help keep the water in the soil longer for your plants to use. If you haven't mulched yet, it isn't too late and an added bonus to mulching is much less weeding. If you have never mulched before, go to Cornell's website and read up on this important subject, www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/mulch/mulchland.html.
While we have seen some rain in the past few days, I am concerned about the rest of the summer, and since I use a private well, I have put aside the sprinkler in favor of deeply hand watering the rows -remember, plants need 1" of rain per week. If you have soaker hoses that you can lay right next to your plant roots, use them. To be sure I don't run my well dry, even with direct watering of each plant; I have decided to install rain barrels that will collect the rainwater from my 800 square foot roof which will provide the water needed for my garden. The roof - to barrel - to garden, supply an extra inch of water.
All precipitation problems aside, it has been a glorious spring, well appreciated after the old-fashioned winter. Hope for a bountiful harvest abides!
Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener M. L. Wells