It was time to plant peas, spinach, and radishes – last week already! Getting these cool weather crops in on time is never a sure bet, spring does what it will, and when it’s too wet and cool there’s no point in pushing the land to do what it won’t. Working the soil too wet just makes a big mess; not only does it make a giant mud pie, it destroys the delicate structure that supports the working ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and soil insects.
That soil ecosystem is especially critical for the organic farming model to work; in fact we rely on it. Instead of using synthetic fertilizers, we use compost, mulches, nitrogen fixing cover crops and other natural methods to create fertile conditions for our crops. But these natural methods all count on a healthy soil ecosystem to be in place in order for the nutrients to be made available to the plant crops. Worms, beetles, bacteria, and fungi change organic materials in the soil into nutrients for the plants. This simple fact is the foundation of organic agriculture, and the starting point for all the research being conducted on organic farm research stations at Universities around the country.
One morning last week we noticed that finally a few of our acres were almost dry enough to work, maybe we could get our peas and spinach in? By noon, the sun and wind had made our work for us – it was dry enough. I checked the weather forecast, 90% chance of rain the next day; we were going to have to hurry. Of course this was the day I had scheduled for a trip to the dentist, and of course, I rescheduled. I’ve been training Chris, our farm manager to do more of the tractor work so we started with him hooking the Kubota up to a chisel plow and sending him off into the field to break-up the soil.
Throughout the afternoon and into the evening we took turns on the tractor, first the chisel plow, and then a field cultivator to work the soil a bit finer. Our final step before sowing seeds is to use a bed shaper to make a fine seed bed to plant in. We didn’t make it that far before dark, and it did rain the next day, and the pea seeds are still in the seed bags. But we are a few steps closer, and it’s still not too late to plant, so here’s to the next dry day!
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