Monday, April 01, 2013

Soil Testing

 Monday, April 1, 2013

Good morning from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the snow is now several inches lower than it was last night after hard rains and wind. Just the same there is plenty of snow in the fields and woods and the larger critters of the forest such as the deer and bear have yet to make it out to our fields. The next few days of warmer weather should see a difference. Snowmobile trails have all been closed around here and other winter snow sports are tricky based on where you live or visit. Many have decided to close for the season.

It seems strange to Gail and me that we are already entering another year the our flower farm on Route 2. We should be "over" calling it "new" now but there are many customers from our Peacham Pond days that still haven't made the visit.

As I was culling some of last year's pictures this morning, I came across an old folder entitled "Clay" It contains pictures of my first introduction to real clay...the stuff that suggested on our first year of ownership that perhaps we should become potters. I remember so well when the real estate broker asked if we wanted to test the soil before we bought it and I said no that I could fix up about any soil and based on it's proximity to the Winooski River, I expected that there would not be a single type of soil  but  multiple types, each with it's own challenges. I didn't know for sure but it turned out that I was correct.

As the bulldozer began working the top of the land to make an entrance off Route 2 and a place for a building, the cursing of the operator signaled one of the soil types--clay. As the dozer pushed forward, clay rolled in layers like a jelly roll until it couldn't move any more. The big machine's tracks become packed with clay time and again and we had to stop and use shovels and bars to free them. It was not good work and all of us were covered in gray clay before we finished. I had chosen a good contractor who knew Vermont and just because he used expletives as he worked didn't mean the end product would be less than I expected. He was good with the dozer and I would hire him again. Several days later after tons of gravel and a couple thousand feet of road fabric, that task was complete.

No matter how big you intend your garden to be, I strongly suggest soil samples and soil tests early on. Vermont does have a number of soil types and some are better for grapes or apples than for flowers or strawberries or corn and it's helpful to know that up front. From my days helping people write business plans, I know that it's best to eliminate as many surprises as possible. Master gardeners, farmers, successful gardeners in your neighborhood are all examples of people who will be happy to offer advice and make your gardening endeavors much more successful. Every state has an extension service within its agricultural department and these are the people who can help right from the start. Private greenhouses and nurseries often offer springtime courses to answer the same questions and make it easier to understand what to do after turning that first shovel of soil.

So if a new garden is in the cards for coming weeks, plan now, draw a map, line up a soil test kit, attend seminars, talk to your neighbors, figure wind direction, notice where the sun rises and sets. Gardens are great fun and like anything else that we do, planning ahead makes for a bigger smile in the end.

Writing from the mountain where the sun has come out again and the temperature has risen to 48.1°. I like this a lot!  Gotta get going.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

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