Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Crops Planted

We got the first crops in this week: three varieties of potatoes, 3 types of onions, lettuce, carrots, arugula, radishes, Calendula (for some color) and Chinese cabbage. This weekend I'll also set out some broccoli. I used my rototiller to make furrows and Jennie used her hoe to create a long 'bowel' on the top of the furrow. She put cotton seed meal (an excellent source of nitrogen) in the bowel and then scattered the seeds and covered with a layer of sifted soil. We'll see how this works. The furrows are up about 6 inches above the mean soil level so they are dryer. At this time of the year, on Ebey Island that is important. Later, when the plants have developed a root system they will be able to reach the water which is only down about 4 inches below mean soil level. We may need to do some watering early, depending on rain, but not later.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Tilling Complete

I was able to get into the garden yesterday and finish (at least for now) the spring tilling. It's funny. The water table is only down about 6 inches, but the surface was dry enough to till. Could have been drier, but it worked. All of the garden has been gone over twice and some as much as 6 times now. I think I've got the canary grass handled. The areas I had covered last fall with black plastic were by far the easiest to work. I wish I had covered the entire garden. Fundamentally, I don't like black plastic, but when a garden is new, I feel justified in using it to save a lot of labor and energy. My grandfather never used anything more than a shovel and a hoe to 'farm' his quarter acre garden. But that was after years of working it every year and good use of mulch over the winters. Ultimately, I'd like to get back to that if I ever stayed in one place long enough.

After I completed the tilling, I wanted to prepare an area for the early spring planting -- potatoes, onion sets, carrots, etc. For those plants, I wanted to get the root area up away from the water table for sprouting. Later the water table will drop a foot or more so the later crops do not need to be raised. Last year, we laboriously hand dug raised beds, lifting clods of canary-grass-root-laden soil. Most of those beds did not do very well. This year the root clods aren't there, but it's still a lot of work to hand dig raised beds. I used the furrowing attachment on my tiller to make three long raised rows in about 8 minutes. Slick. The furrows are 6-8 inches above the rest of the soil and appear to be 8-10 inches above the water table. The soil settled a lot in the rains since I made the furrows. I'll need to re-make them -- a little higher when it dries out some more. I plan to plant potatoes and onions on top the furrows. I'd like to be able to get the tiller down between the furrows a couple of times during the summer to keep the weeds under control.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Plowing

I went to the farm today to see if Bruce King (of Ebey Island Farm -- see link to the right) had delivered a load of wood chips that I had ordered. Not yet. Bruce needs to get his truck running. No hurry! But I did notice that the ground was probably dry enough to get some tilling done.

3 hours later, I had covered about 2/3 of my plot -- 2 to 4 passes in some cases. The areas that I had tilled a couple of times last fall were easy and are now ready to plant. The areas I didn't get to had more canary grass and will have to be tilled at least one more time before they are ready. So now it depends on the rains. The forecast is for rain tonight and tomorrow, so it might be next week before I can get int the garden again.

It is sure nice to be working with the soil again.