Spring is in the air, as Southeast Texas awakens to display new green foliage from lawns and pastures to vines and trees prompting gardeners to turn their soil and plant some seeds, however recent weather patterns and excessive rain may require more attention to soil preparation than previous years. According to Jasper County Extension Agent Brock Fry, the past two years have brought record rainfall totals throughout the county, with amounts in excess of 100 inches in some places. “Record rainfalls have had an impact on our soils in Jasper County, making them more acidic and reducing nutrients, with less topsoil.” With significant rain falling weekly for several months, and more forecasted this week, “the rain has leached or moved nutrients further away from the roots that need it.”
Fry recommends lime and fertilizer to promote growth and yield, as well as mulch to prevent erosion, as local topsoil continues to wash away with each substantial rain event. “Folks are ready to get into the garden and till,” which loosens topsoil. “We are in need of about three weeks of drier weather so we can really get to work,” continued Fry. “Although I’d rather have a little too much rain than none at all.” Additionally, the lack of chill hours during the past winter will affect fruit trees, reducing yields, or even preventing them, not to mention what it’s done, or has not done, to the local pest population. With no significant extended freeze, mosquito and flea populations will explode come warmer months. “Our weather patterns have not been very stable, so some of our fruit trees have already started blooming, and if we get that ‘Easter freeze,’ it could have devastating effects on those crops,” Fry concluded with a reminder to, despite rainfall totals, water newly planted trees during late freezes in order to protect tender roots.