Glory be! Last week, the soil had dried out just enough in a couple of places for me to begin this spring’s fieldwork. Tuesday I prepared enough beds to seed the first successions of beets, carrots, and greens. Then it rained again but dried out enough to begin transplanting over the weekend — onions and shallots, and kale and chard.
But the season is still behind, I figure by at least ten days. I may have to push back the first CSA pick up by a week, which isn’t unusual. Some years the weather cooperates, and some years it doesn’t.
With all this cool and wet weather, I am learning more and more about how the farm’s soil behaves. The biggest challenge is the layer of hardpan about eight inches under the soil. This hardpan prevents water from seeping through, which saturates the top layer of soil and then pools on the surface. Which is to say, when the soil gets wet, it gets really wet and takes a long time to dry out.
The encouraging thing is to see how much the quality of the soil has improved with even only one year of organic practices. The section of the field I sowed last summer with crimson clover (its deep taproot helps break up compacted soils) now drains more readily and dries out more quickly than the rest of the field. The parts where I broke up the hardpan manually with my digging fork are even better. And with the additions of organic matter I made last year, the earthworms are returning, a good sign of rebounding soil health.
I may not be able to solve this problem overnight, but I am going to solve it.