Gardening in rainy weather and how to dry out the mud

Question: I have an old plastic 10' diameter swimming pool liner. If I were to spread that on the ground, would the soil under it dry out enough that I could work with it (dig in it, plant stuff, etc.)? I'm in the mid Wilammette Valley, Oregon, and it rains and rains and rains this time of year, and my entire back yard is mud, and remains mud until late April, maybe not until May.
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If you have decent drainage, the soil under the plastic will be drier than the surrounding area, but it could still be too wet to work.
Why don't you try it and report back on the results?
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If anything that plastic liner will prevent the ground underneath from drying until long after the surrounding ground dries. Sounds like your only salvation is raised bed gardening, or at least build up a berm for a planting bed. But in your area farmers don't work their ground until early may anyway, it's too wet earlier, but more importantly it's too cold outdoors to plant earlier. Planting too early actually puts you behind, your seeds/seedlings if not damaged will die... and with many crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc.) once damaged they will never fully recover, it would be best to replant. Planting a little late will actually be a head start. What's your big rush... if you insist on getting an early start then you need a greenhouse.
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Like the OP, I'm in Oregon - outside of Eugene/southern Willamette Valley. Our soil actually drains well, but even so, our gardens are a virtual quagmire right now. Likely to stay that way for a while - between the rains and melting snow, even our raised beds are weeks away from being workable. The only outdoor gardening we'll be able to do for a while involves a chain saw - sadly, last week's heavy snow brought down two of our trees.
Have a small greenhouse, but it's filled to the gills with my frost tender container plants. Established plants do ok in there with a heat lamp, but with lots of 20 degree nights and a mid-May frost danger date - it's too cold for me to germinate seeds in the winter here. Suggest you might want to try an indoor garden.
Last fall we built in 8' bench in the warmest corner of the garage and hung 2 banks of adjustable grow lights. Now have multiple flats of perennial cuttings happily growing under lights on heat mats. They're thriving and when the ground is finally workable, I'm going to be way ahead of the game. An adjacent deck is the perfect place to harden plants off before they migrate to the garden. Will start annual seeds next month. The lights & mats were well worth the investment and I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to go tend my indoor garden last week when we were snowed in...
Nancy T
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I'm maybe 30 miles north of you, I live in the thriving metropolis of Lebanon :)
I have a nice slab in my back yard, maybe 10' x 20'. I'm seriously considering putting some sort of greenhouse on it. I got a late start with the garden last year, and we didn't start getting tomatoes and stuff until towards the end of the season. Half my pumpkins were green when the frost killed the vines. If I could get just 30 days jumpstart, it would mean a whole months worth of stuff - and at the rate we eat squash and tomatoes and stuff, that amounts to quite a bit of $ savings. Mmmm...I can already taste those purple tomatoes, the yellow crooknecks, the tomatillos...<drools>...
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We're out towards Walterville near the MacKenzie - think our weather is very similar. Our tomatoes didn't really start ripening last summer until well into August. They were late, but great. It wasn't so much the late start, but the cooler temps - particularly at night - that delayed ripening. Everybody had green tomatoes for what seemed like forever here last year and it didn't seem to matter whether they'd planted well developed plants or 6 pack seedlings.
We designed & built a small (8'x 3.5' ) shed style greenhouse 2 years ago in a sheltered area up next to the house. Gets what sun there is. Glad we have it, but even with the heat lamp, it's just too cold in there to germinate seeds. In a larger greenhouse, like the 10 x 20 you're talking about, heaters and vents would give you a lot more flexibility. Envy you the slab - we just don't have a good location for a big greenhouse on our property. If you do try a greenhouse, would suggest you still consider investing in the heat mats - they make all the difference in the world germinating seeds.
Nancy T
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Ah, I know where that is. I'd guess you're about 25 miles SSE of me. You're up in the hills a bit - what is your elevation? How much snow did you get last week? We got about 6-8 inches the first day, and then a couple of dustings afterwards. And my garden, like yours, is mud and muck.
Do you grow beans or okra? When do you plant them, and how well do they grow? I've not had much luck with okra at all, and my beans tend to pick up disease easily, and don't usually make through the end of the season. I tried some chinese noodle beans last year, and they did not grow well.
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Even my lawn is a squishy mess...we got a foot+ of snow - the last traces are still melting in the rain. The gardens are hopeless, with no immediate clear weather in sight for another week. Our place is on a hill at about 700 feet. Looked like a Christmas card last week, but unfortunately the heavy, wet snow did a lot of damage to our trees - several old favorite plum trees aren't worth trying to save. Managed to shake the snow off of lilacs & smaller trees, but the big, mature trees were hopeless. Lots more snow as you drive upriver - a friend in MacKenzie Bridge has several feet with more every time we get rain down here. Got stuck in a parking lot in Vida just yesterday - they had more snow over the weekend. Saw lots of breakage in the filbert groves along 126. Snow line was at Leaburg over the weekend, so we just got more rain here. Enough already with the precipitation!
Beans & Okra I don't plant. There are just 2 of us and we'd be overwhelmed. We mostly stick to tomatoes, strawberries, and herbs. Do have friends who grow beans who swear by Territorial Seeds - have you tried them? They have a good web site that's fun to dream over on winter nights. Nancy T
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