Late in April we caught a warm, dry day and plowed the second half-acre of our vegetable field, which will ultimately be planted to more vegetables this spring. Last year we cover-cropped the plot with buckwheat, a method that dually functioned to nourish the soil and suppress weeds, while we were waiting to expand our garden size. Now ready to grow our production capacity in 2014, we plowed, disced, and roto-tilled the field in one long day, with the great Massey tractor we now call our own.
Coincidentally, this ritual happened to fall almost exactly one year after we initially plowed the field last spring, on April 22, Earth [Breaking] Day. With rain forecast for April 22 onward, we performed the task just a day earlier, on April 21, and it’s a good thing we did, as our newly plowed field is mucky and muddy once again after the heavy rains of last week.
Now that the sod and buckwheat have been turned under by the plow, broken up by the disc, and incorporated more thoroughly with the roto-tiller, we have moved on to one of the largest projects of the season, hand-shaping the raised beds in this second plot. Rather than forming our beds with a tractor implement, we choose to raise them by hand, because it allows us to more-closely space our rows of crops. A tractor is limited in that you must lay your beds in between the tractor tires, which is too wide for our intensively planted garden system. So we shovel each of the 46 beds one time, and from then on, the beds are permanent raised beds, to be composted, planted, weeded, and maintained yearly.
Fortunately we have had the generous help of friends this year and last at completing this arduous task. Also fortunate was the stroke of genius we had in determining that we could shovel the soil into the beds, rather than rake it, as we did last year. The shoveling is at least twice as fast, and much less painful on the back. It only took us raking a whole half-acre last year before coming up with this quite simple idea.
As of today, we have shaped 23 beds, so we are halfway done. In between raindrops, we continue to plow ahead, planting, singing, and chatting as we go.