Saturday, March 31, 2012
Amending the soil and big tractors
Despite the cooler, wet weather this week the soil was certainly dry enough to till. Friday turned out to be a sunny day and a perfect day to plow. Luke, the farmer up the road was available and met me at the farm around 5pm Friday afternoon with his big tractor and disc-harrow. It did a great job breaking up the cover crops and working up the soil. I was skeptical that the discs would do an adequate job and thought we needed to use the plow, but I'm glad I was wrong. We plowed the field in the Fall using a moldboard plow and discs. The moldboard actually slices and inverts the soil's top layers. If you think about soil as having most of its complex life in the top 6", you can see why disturbing this and burying it is not good for long-term soil building. Continuous plowing in this way will also create a plow-pan beneath the soil in which roots cannot penetrate. A great book to read more about this is the "Ploughman's Folly", written in the 1940's had a huge and controversial impact. Luke mentioned having a chisel plow in his collection of implements, so I think I will try that out in the future. The chisel plow cuts through the soil, deeper than the discs, but doesn't disturb the soil layers as much. I'll let the green manures decompose a bit, add to soil fertility, and awaken microbrial activity.
I am excited about how easily the soil crumbled under the discs. No clods, no shiny surfaces, that indicate compaction and damaged soil.
We will be planting peas, carrots, kale, and lettuces into this wlcoming soil very soon!