Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I've put this off long enough. It's never been possible to write about the spring plowing because so many aspects of the process have changed so quickly they don't make sense except for the half day after the fact. And then everything changes again.
The state of the soil is not so good. It was turned the first time in early March, and the lingering effects of last year's heavy rains was immediately apparent. As I turned furrows I was turning up weed stalks from last year, untouched and undecomposed, sometimes with leaf veination still visible. The bacterial life in the soil last year suffered greatly - all the little guys suffocated, basically. The soil went anaerobic, meaning there was not enough oxygen to support healthy microbial life. Another type of bacteria flourished, the deep, deep underground kind that need no oxygen. As I plowed, the smells that greeted me were not the rich spring soil smell, the garden smell, the plant lots of things and be happy! smell, rather it was the construction site basement excavation smell. The netherworld smell. The subduction smell. The Virgil, why did you lead me here? smell.
I took solace in the amount of little spiders scurrying across the turned dirt - they must have something to eat. And those things must have something to eat. And those things ....
The garden bacteria will recolonise, of that I have no doubt. Bacteria get to where they want to be. But, it will be slow, and I need them there now, munching down the fertizer I've been spreading and making little bacterial excrement compounds that are available to plant rootlets.
Hurry up! Eat! Shit! Die!
That's what the plants need the bacteria to do.
The warm dry spell we're in has got me weeding my early planting already. (I've never needed to weed this early. Sometimes it needn't be done until May.) I went up and down the rows with a hoe yesterday, and still got the occasional whiff of anaerobic creatures. It's not over yet.
The wet last year led to a wet cold winter, of course. Too wet to plow early, as everyone noticed. I seized the first opportunity I got, and plowed in borderline conditions. Just a bit too wet, in fact, but I plowed before another rainy period settled in. Had we a freeze or two since then, it wouldn't have made a big deal, as the soil clods would have frozen and expanded and frozen again and expanded and fallen into tidy little aggregates. But no, not only did the soil not freeze, and not only are we beyond all chance of a hard freeze, but it is now baking in a record setting heat wave. The field is cloddy, and will be for the rest of the year. I've disked and disked and disked again, and gotten it so that I can at least work it, but again to the detriment of our invisible little friends. There are years when the soil rides up the moldboard like potting mix, and lays down flat and smooth with one pass of the disk. Not this year.
Does anyone now remember the ten straight days it did not get above freezing? Does anyone now remember soggy driveways and muddy shoes? I've irrigated twice this year. Sometimes I don't set the pipes up until June.
I could use a little help with knowing the future.
If it's gonna continue to be this dry, I'll turn the summer fields at the first opportunity, so to not risk the ground getting so hard it will not take a plow point. And kill the cover crop and leave bare soil exposed much longer than I'd like to. If we're going to get rain that even approaches a normal amount, I'll let the rye grow and let the microbes mate and turn the field when I need to.
It's just so hard to figure out what's normal anymore.


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