What about all that mud?

With water and mud flowing into landscaped yards, what is a gardener to do to prevent long-term damage to plants? The silty mud deposited in yards by the storms can actually benefit our yards in some ways. If the mud hasn't buried plants, particularly grass, it can supply nutrients that are good for plant health.

However, when mud covers a lawn completely, the lawn suffocates. Removing all but a thin layer of the mud helps the lawn survive. Aerating this thinned-down material into the soil in March will be advantageous to grass health. Do not thatch a lawn that has a silt layer because the thatch machine will just grind up the mud and further damage the crown of the grass.

The fine particles in mud can cement together, forming a hardpan layer that doesn't allow air to reach roots or water to penetrate into the soil. If you find your flower beds, trees, or shrubs surrounded by mud with a hard surface, loosen or till the mud so the plants can breathe. Adding organic matter, such as compost or composted manure, to these areas will also help.

Adding some of the silt mixed with organic matter to your vegetable garden soil is also beneficial.

Till at least 8 inches deep, deeper if possible. Going deeper may require that you use a shovel rather than a rototiller, since rototillers rarely till more than 4 inches to 6 inches deep.

Be aware that weed seeds have likely invaded your yard with all that mud. Look into putting a preemergent herbicide down now to reduce the number of invaders. If you live below the Kings Canyon area, watch for Russian knapweed, which is so insidious and toxic to horses that no one wants it. Other areas may find hoary cress, tall whitetop, and puncturevine. Be on the lookout this spring for plants you have never seen before, or plants you don't want. We can identify plants for you at the Cooperative Extension office. Dig up and bring in the entire plant.

We have information on weeds, preemergent herbicides, plant care and soil health. Contact me, 887-2252 or e-mail skellyj@unce.unr.edu, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Or, check out many useful horticulture publications at www.unce.unr.edu. "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu

Thanks to Dave Ruf for his help with this week's article.

n JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City / Storey County Extension Educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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