Wet Garden Soil

Asked February 20, 2019, 11:00 AM EST

I’m wondering if I were to cover part of my garden with black plastic would it help to dry it out so I would be able to till it with my tiller? Someone suggested to me that it might actually keep the soil wet longer. My reason for wanting to do something like this is to get the garden tilled earlier so I could go ahead and plant some cabbage, lettuce and onions. Some colder weather veggies. Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks

Whitley County Kentucky

1 Response

Thanks for your question. Placing black plastic over wet soil just keeps whatever evaporation might be taking place from happening at all. And it deprives the soil of oxygen, among other 'bad' effects. Walking on or tilling wet soil destroys soil texture and compresses the air out of it. Compressed soil keeps water (when you want plant roots to have it) from penetrating the clay. So, you shouldn't work the soil until it crumbles when you pick it up between your fingers.

If you are having pooling that prevents you from gardening as early as you (and nature) want, you either need to figure out how to put in a drainage system, or build raised beds, in which you can have well-draining soil from the outset. It is great to be planning a 4-season garden (if the plants can stand it), but without some soil preparation, your plants are going to be doomed. Here is a very thorough Extension publication that explains what to do and when to do it: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

You really need to master only the first dozen or so pages now, and keep it on hand for when it's time actually to plant the plants. And, if you have questions about constructing a raised bed garden, here is another helpful publication: https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/2761e/ Hope these are helpful. Good luck!