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Soil, Seeds and Snow?

February 23, 2011

A little, tiny bit of snow left in the rhubarb after last Wednesday’s snow


I am looking out the window as I type and the rain is falling. Every once in a while, it looks kind of thick and slushy, even at 50 ft elevation, just after noon, with the thermometer reading 38 degrees outside. Will it snow? It did snow down here in the lowlands last Wednesday, big beautiful flakes, that left a dusting on the ground. It disappeared quickly; too quickly for me to get much of a photo. Maybe this time there will be more and I’ll get out there in time.


The first onion starts



Even if it does snow and the nighttime temperatures drop below 20 degrees (predicted for Friday and Saturday night), there is a warm place in the basement for all the new seeds to start sprouting. In the last three weeks, I have started all the onions, leeks, kale, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi (a new attempt, after a failed one four or so years back), endive, escarole, garden sorrel (new this year), and some perenial herbs (thyme, sage, and oregano). A few more things will get started this week. I added a four flat heat mat to my collection of seed starting equipment, along with some heat mat thermometers, to keep the soil temperature close to ideal for germination. I now have room for twelve flats to germinate on heat mats and twenty flats to be under lights (possibly soon to be twentyfour). I am still dreaming of that greenhouse for all my seed starting.

Sorry, no pictures of soil, but the kohlrabi is up!


As for soil, I got the test results back from the soil samples I sent in to A & L Western Agriculteral Laboratories. I decided to send in a separate sample for the hoop houses this year, to see if they were different from the rest of the beds. They were. I didn’t realize how much nitrogren is leached from the soil through rain. The nitrogen level in the main vegetable beds (next to the hoop houses) was low (12 ppm) while the hoop houses’ level was very high (129 ppm). Yikes! I won’t be adding any nitrogen to the hoop houses this year!

In other soil news, I finally read Teaming With Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, a book that had been sitting on my nightstand for four years. I read this book in preparation for the Organicology conference workshop I attended on Soils…which was a good thing. Teaming With Microbes advocates for no-till gardening whenever possible, as tilling is hard on soil, breaking up the soil structure and destroying organisms that are essential for good soil and plant health. One of the studies presented at the Soils workshop was on no-till organic farming while cover cropping. Unfortunately, the methods of strict no-till farming in the study were not successful. The best compromise they could find was strip tilling, working up just a twelve inch wide strip for planting within the cover crop. Hmmm…this is where farming (or market gardening) gets hard. You may learn the theoretically ideal way to farm, but it may not be possible in real world, less than ideal circumstances. You have to decide: what is the best compromise?

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