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Jeremy Puma

PNW Phenology

Beyond indian plum, I rely on beak hazelnut, Corylus cornuta, to tell me when its “time”. This year, I spotted the catkins earlier than I usual. But at this very moment there is a dusting of snow on the ground. I’ve yet to see stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, poke out of the ground in the ravine next to my house — that’s my other queue. However, even when the native plants start unfurling their leaves I also consider the soil. Every spring, I put my rubber boots on, grab something to kneel on and dig down 4 inches into the soil. I do a “soil ball” test, squishing together a snowball size orb of soil before sticking my finger through the middle. If it stays together, it’s too wet. If it crumble apart, that’s a good sign the soil is ready for working. I also look for signs of insect and micro-organisms. Ever notice that when you put down compost in the winter it just kind of sits there? That’s because all the little hard workers that break down that good organic matter are dormant. When I see lots of worms wiggling and strands of fungi mycorrhizae, I know the soil is ready for planting. With the very wet winter we’ve had in the PNW, my guess would be is we have a while to go before the soil drains enough to be planted.