We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

April 15 not only is tax day. It’s also the official opening of the planting season in Sonoma County, when it’s presumed that frost danger has passed. This year however, it arrives on the heels of an autumn and winter of record-breaking rainfall, changing up the landscape and the chores.

The gift of all that precipitation after years of drought means a landscape lush and emerald green. Trees will be especially happy after the generous soaking.

But Mother Nature’s open spigot has also means more work for the home gardener. For with rain come the weeds and the snails.

“We’re all going to be weeding for the rest of our natural born lives,” said Sara Malone, a Sonoma County Master Gardener from Petaluma. “We’re all weeding. And then it dumps again. And again. And again.”

And with each dousing come more weeds and more snails.

“I’m weeding like crazy,” she said. “I’m trying to get everything before it goes to seed. Because the minute it gets warm and the ground is still wet, we all might as well get goats.”

That’s her way of saying, if you don’t get on top of the weeds now, they’ll completely take over.

That is job one. But the other garden villains to be on the lookout for are slugs and snails.

“There are way more than usual. They love the wet conditions,” said Cindy Stewart, the co-manager of King’s Nursery in Santa Rosa. “The rain makes it easier for them to multiply and take over everything.”

No need to panic. If your beds are small you might be able to pick them off by hand. But this bigger rain year means larger weaponry in many cases.

Stewart recommends Sluggo, a nontoxic bait that is not harmful to animals or people.

“It makes it to where their digestive tracts don’t work anymore,” she said.

In the past the go-to slug killer contained metaldehyde, which vanquished them on contact. The critters would congregate around the bait and quickly be goners.

“You’d wake up in the morning and have shells cracking under your felt and feel vindicated, like your were really doing something,” Stewart remembered.

But the downside was that it could be harmful especially, to pets, who would walk through the poison and get it on their paws.

Sluggo, which contains iron phosphate, works differently, attacking the digestive system of the snails and slugs and leading to a slow death by starvation that can take up to 10 days. But it’s safe, and effective. You just don’t have the satisfaction and reassurance of seeing the bodies pile up, Stewart said.

She recommends being smart about where you apply it. Try putting it where they hide rather than right near the plants. For her it’s among the agapanthus.

“Put it around the area where they’re hibernating. Snails hide from the sunlight and often have trouble moving around when it’s a dry sunny day,” she said.

“They come out at night or when it’s raining. Oftentimes that might be right under the porch in the growth like ivy, or the underside of planters.”

Another effect of all of the rain is that it may have left your succulents looking pretty dirty, requiring a cleaning. And some plants that don’t like too much wetness may have suffered root rot. But Malone said natives actually should be okay because they are genetically programmed to deal with occasional years of heavy rain as well as drought.

Rains will also make short work of the buds on your flowering trees like magnolias and plums.

“If a flowering tree is blooming and it rains all of a sudden, the flowers will be shattered,” Stewart said.

“The show is shorter when you have weather like this with wind and rain.”

“The good news? All the wildflowers,” she added. “Oh my goodness. Nature is putting on a wildflower show.”

Malone said another advantage to the higher volume of precipitation is that it has made clearer which areas of your garden might have drainage problems.

If you have the same plant in different parts of the garden, and it did well in one place and not another, it might have received too much irrigation.

This gives you a chance to move plants or shift the ground around to allow the water to drain off in a different direction.

“I’m not talking bulldozers. Just using a shovel and a rake,” she said.

So what else should you be doing to get your garden growing?

The end of April is your last window to plant cooler-weather crops like peas, onions, garlic and other root crops.

Many gardeners wait until May for their really hot summer crops like tomatoes and peppers.

Although April 15 is usually the last day for frost danger, Mother Nature has a mind of her own so there is no way of knowing for certain.

Head off wormy apples by putting out coddling moth traps in your trees. These sticky traps capture the moths that lay the eggs that lead to the worms that wreck your fruit. And if you wait until the worms are already there, it’s too late.

Amend your soil before you plant vegetables. Building up your soil will lead to a much better crop. Stewart loves good old chicken manure. “It has phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen, a nice composition to get your plants started in the first few weeks. It will make a noticeable difference.

You have your heart set on certain plants or shrubs this year, shop early. Now is the time when nurseries and garden centers are fully stocked. Wait too long into the season and your selection diminishes.

Ever heard of blossom end rot? You don’t want to experience it. It’s what happens when a spot appears, then enlarges and darkens your young fruit or vegetables, such as tomatoes or squash. It will ruin them and once the disease has set in it’s too late.

Stewart said it happens when you have a calcium deficiency in your soil. Head it off by adding agricultural lime or dolomite lime available at nurseries and garden centers.

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5204. On Twitter @megmcconahey.

Show Comment