Preparing the Soil for Planting
My grandson, Beau Wilkins Reynolds, spent the night at our house on Maundy Thursday, April 17. He and I went out early on Good Friday morning to stir the soil in my raised beds and see what else needed to be done to the soil to prepare it for planting. It is Good Friday, a traditional day for planting, but the the Farmers Almanac calls today and tomorrow barren days. That and a projected cold snap on the 24th are enough to delay my planting until the next excellent days for planting, according to the Almanac, April 29-30.
As I turned back the dirt with a garden hand rake, cool black soil appeared on the surface. Beau seemed intrigued, so I sat him on my knee above the raised bed and I picked up a handful of soil. He grabbed a handful and let it sift through his fingers. I turned more soil and worms began to wiggle about on the surface. Beau looked at them with delight. I picked one up in my hand and he laughed out loud. I picked up another and held in out for him to take. He held it gently between his thumb and index finger. I took it from him before he, at almost 11 months old, could investigate what worms taste like. It went back onto the garden wiggling its way beneath the surface to continue its vital work of aerating the soil to make it more fertile for the vegetables that will soon grow in it.
The worms enter the soil primarily through the compost that I mix religiously in the garden throughout the year. You see some of the compost mix above in its early stages of decomposition. It’s made up of coffee grounds, fruit peelings, and various vegetable scraps along with mulched leaves that I get from a couple in the church who have huge oak trees in their yard and use no chemicals on their lawn. I compost in a customized drum that I got from Tractor Supply. I turn the drum 3 or 4 times a week and empty it into buckets about every 6 weeks to mix with the raised bed garden soil before and during growing season.
I do have a couple crops that thrive in the cool weather, including the raised bed of strawberries that you see below. This will be year two for these plants. They are the ones that survived the harsh winter including two hard freezes with temperatures below 10 degrees. They are blooming now and forming fruit. These plants began slowly on about 1/8th of a 5 foot by 10 foot raised bed last year. Now they cover 3/4ths of the bed and are still spreading. Actually, they spread outside the bed into the Bermuda grass during the winter, and I would gladly let them take over. It’s just that the lake bed soil in my yard is not ideal for growing anything but grass and weeds. That is why I do raised bed gardening here.I do believe every child, and every adult for that matter, benefits from holding handfuls of fertile soil often and gently lifting a worm that works non-stop beneath the surface of rich garden soil allowing it to breathe and receive and retain moisture and nutrients. I did not do much work in my garden today. I mainly played with my grandson and watched him begin to learn where his food comes from. I turned some soil, pulled out a few weeds that were trying to grow there, and watched God’s creatures continue the work they never stopped doing during the winter of getting the ground ready to grow the food we’ll eat this summer. Go turn some soil. Compost everything organic from your kitchen or coffee break room. Your diet, the earth, and another generation will be richer for it.
There’s a section in my book, The Land That Calls Me Home, titled “Determining Your Farming Potential.” It offers ways to determine if you are cut out for farming by beginning to eat locally grown food and then trying your hand at growing vegetables in containers or raised beds. Whether you simply start eating food grown closer to home or buy or rent a farm to earn your living from the soil, getting closer to the land that grows and sustains life is good for you. You can order the book from Amazon and join the discussion of how to increase support for local farmers and increase the availability of locally grown food on The Land That Calls Me Home Facebook Book page at http://www.facebook.com/onewiththesoil.