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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Feb 26

Sunlight Hours

Posted on February 26, 2016 at 12:48 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Spring garlic rising
 Spring garlic rising
Warm, sunny days noticeably arrived the same time the daylight hours increased. It was amazing to see bare ground suddenly sporting wild grasses, autumn-planted daffodils, garlic poking their heads as if stretching for the sky, and rhubarb unfurling its crinkly leaves from winter dormancy.

Longer daylight hours also mean the chickens are increasing their egg production. During the mid-winter months, it was a bonus to find a single egg a day in their nest—just one egg from five chickens. (Yes, there were originally six chicks—one chicken fell victim to a very hungry bobcat during December.) Those eggs were laid mostly by the Rhode Island Reds, which makes me wonder if they are not as affected by shorter daylight hours as the Buff Orpingtons.

Spring chickens
 Spring chickens
Longer sunlight hours seem to also draw gardeners outside. And what better time to spend in the garden! With the rain-drenched soil, weeds are easy to pull now. Sheet mulching during this time means less water is needed to saturate the soil before laying down cardboard for a good earth-to-material contact. Also, digging is easy for installing bare-root plants and summer bulbs that are now available. While digging, inspect the soil condition. If the soil is clumping together due to saturation, hold off before continuing with the project. Working with waterlogged soil will only compact the soil particles further and prevent proper aeration for the roots to grow properly—if at all. Note the poorly drained area and work at improving the soil conditions by adding compost or soil amendments. Or, if you have chickens, work in their shavings after cleaning the coop. Just make certain to allow that area to rest several months before planting into the "hot" fertilized bedding material.

In fact, I recently read of an easy composting idea that could be employed during this time of year to benefit a poorly drained area of the garden. Dig a trench 12 - 18 inches deep. Begin throwing compostable material such as pulled weeds, vegetable scraps from the kitchen, eggshells, newspaper, etc., into the trench and backfilling with a layer of the soil removed from the trench. Add another layer of compost material and repeat with the soil. Once the trench is filled and covered with soil, start another trench alongside the trench just completed. Allow this area to "cook" for at least six months before planting in the enriched composted soil. Ideally, by fall, the compost-enhanced trenches will be a great target area for adding a winter vegetable garden requiring less water than a summer garden. Those added nutrients will keep the plants fortified, and the composted material will act as a sponge holding moisture long after untreated areas have dried out. Longer sunlight hours now equal bonuses to those taking advantage of the time!

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