Sunday, May 24, 2009

Drizzling sort of day

It's a nice soft early summer rain of the kind we really like and need that is falling, which is good because the realtive heat of the last few days, especially Thursday, had turned the newly tilled garden a little dusty. So much so, that I had used a sprinkler last night to water in our newly planted bedding plants just to make sure they got enough soil moisture.

We use tilling for compost management and weed control. Each year we till the previous year's composted bedding into the garden plot with the "big" tractor tiller (if you can call a 12 HP Kubota "big"). That main tilling was a couple weeks ago now.

We add between 2 and 4 yards of composted material to the soil each year. This material is winter sheep bedding, hay soaked with urine and manure, that is then worked over by piglets and chickens for two seasons, further enriching it. It is piled up four-five feet high and watered in the mid-fall, and by late spring it is well-rotted compost, and I spread it with the tractor loader and till it in.

Then I make beds. Using a modification on the old "French Intensive" plan, we use deep beds for everything except potatoes. The beds are made by digging out about 8-10 inches of soil for a walkway where the humans will be, and piling the resultant material where the plants will be. The deep bed that results is then re-worked. Previously we did this reworking with a spading fork. This year, with the overal depth of soil in the garden increased quite a lot after a couple of years of adding compost, and so less need to pile up soil, I chose to make wider beds that the tiller could work.

Our soil is now of such good quality in most of these beds that after the final tilling and raking you can push your hand in 8-10 inches before meeting resistance. It feels soft and almost spongy or feathery. In bare feet, which is how I like to be when planting, it feels so nice underfoot, it's almost sexy. It holds moisture beautifully, but also drains well. A real French Intensive deep bed would be 10-12 inches, but that would take a lot more work, and it's only really a help for root crops like beets and carrots. In any case, these beds are much deeper, and of much better soil quality and texture, than the regular tilled beds for row vegetables that are the norm in Maine.

So yesterday I dug the last trench for walkways and tilled all the unplanted beds a second time, turning in all the tiny weed seeds that had sprouted since the last rain.

Then in the evening as the sun was leaving the garden, I planted out all the brassicas and some of the lettuce sprouts that Aimee had started in the greenhouse, and then fussed around trying to get a sprinkler that worked well to water them in. We have bad luck with sprinklers. They always seem to quit and get stuck, making a lake in one place and leaving everything else bone dry. I fussed with two different ones and failed to get satisfactory results. Eventually I just gave up and drove to the store and bought a new one.

The plants were all still standing this morning. This nice rain will help get them settled.

A good day's work, and very satisfying.

Now for the tomatoes. We usually wait until the first week in June for those, but this year has been mild so far, so we might take a chance late next week.

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