For anyone starting a garden at home for the first time, there are many variables to consider. Sun exposure, access to water and soil are three absolute requirments for a successful growing season. It's true that here in the Pacific NW we can dig in a bit earlier than other areas of the country. Our soil stays fairly temperate due to our mild winters. BUT.......our soil also tends to be pretty soggy. Winter rains saturate the soil, and as a rule of thumb you should not work the soil when it's wet. Why? Because wet soil aids in packing particles close together. This condenses the space needed for air and water drainage within the soil - crucial for plants in any garden. You do not want to deal with compacted soil, either. Total drag that takes much much longer to remedy then waiting a week for your soil to dry out.
So, how do you tell if your soil it 'too' wet? A learned this handy DIY-trick from my dear farmer-friends at organic Oxbow Farm who grow food on a few acres in the Carnation Valley. Dig down a shovel-lengths deep and grab a handful of soil. Using, your fist, squeeze a portion into a ball and toss that ball in the air letting it fall onto your opened palm. If the soil-ball breaks apart easily your ground is a-ok to work. If it stays clumped together (even a small nucleous) it's a bit too wet and you're better off waiting another week or so and checking again. Need a tip for how to speed up drying out your soil? Drop me a line.