The past week I have been spreading compost and working up the ground in preparation for early spring planting, including "double digging" some beds for trial next to the chicken coop. Yesterday was an exceedingly nice day for Southern Indiana at this time of the year, the high was about 77 degrees or so with ground temperature nearing 55 degrees.
I did some hand digging and bed making, did some discing with the tractor, and even got some Egyptian walking onions and red and white "green" onions in the ground along with numerous varieties of peas, some turnips, cabbage seeds, wildflowers and poppies and a nice section of hulless oats, we will probably continue to succession plant these crops for the next couple weeks, I plan on ordering another 10 lbs of hulless oat seeds in the near future. I will probably plant the vast majority of the "cole" crops somewhere around the 20'th of March should the weather co-operate.
We have spread nearly all of the compost from this past year and I am still running short as I still have four our five areas that need some additional organic matter, however I have noticed a marked improvement in soil fertility in these areas from the high amount of OM we have applied over the past three years and the relatively little cultivation that we have done in these areas. Alan Kapuler wrote a great paper once speaking of weeds as being a great source of organic, soil building matter and I think he is really onto something, we have plenty of weeds here and we try to keep them under control with straw mulching and some light cultivation but late into the fall we sort of let them do their own thing and build up their own bio-mass and then we bush hog them and allow them the winter to lie on top of the ground providing food and shelter for micro organisms and earthworms, early in the spring we very lightly plow the ground (about 3-6 inches or so) and reincorporate this new humous into the ground, every year we see a marked improvement in the crumbly and "earthy" smelling soil, it may be that the fields are not even in need of more improvement this year and I wasn't going to worry with it until a neighbor stopped by and offered me the opportunity to clean up a barn in which the manure is composed of already aged horse, goat, and chicken manures! So, I can't pass that up, it's a balanced meal for a garden! Friday I will be a busy man as I see at least ten manure spreader loads coming out of there, more than enough humous material for the remaining fields and a couple of loads good to go for some new compost piles.
This year we will really focus on composting everything, weeds, animal manures, humanure, food and flower plant residue, leaf mold, day old bread and so on and it will be done on the spot to allow for less wheel barrow travel.
Today the temperature plummeted back down to the 30's and 40's but made for a good day in the greenhouse where the temperature was a constant 80 degrees! I seeded about 30 flats of mostly tomatoes and peppers but also basil, Tom Wagners true potato seeds from last year, and a few other things. The brassicas in the greenhouse are up and running as are the early tomatoes for planting in the greenhouse in bags of composted cow manure which I'll probably plant early next week. I've still got just a bit more to get started in the greenhouse, mostly the several varieties of rice we will be trialing this year, Ken Allen's Tetra Baby watermelon, some cotton, eggplants, and Yacon and Oca.
Just for those wondering, the Tim Peters interview is still in the works, Tim gave me a call this morning to let me know that he had completed the interview twice only to have it disappear into the void that is cyberspace and that he needed a break, so I will be interviewing him by phone sometime early next week.