Farm Focus: Preparing for Planting

While the weather remains largely dry, our Ground Team has
been busy preparing 20 acres of ground for a new block of
trees. To begin, we brought in a Caterpillar tractor that has
three big steel shanks on the back which we use to “ deep rip”
the ground. Our soil is a heavy clay loam and this deep ripping
is a critical step in preparing the soil for our new trees. The
tractor goes over the soil lengthwise, crosswise and diagonally
to a depth of three feet to loosen all of the soil at a deep level
and to break up any hardpan that may be present so that the
area that the tree roots grow into will be loose.
After the deep ripper is done the field is scattered with large
and heavy clots of soil due to our soil structure. We use two
additional implements to break up the soil into a finer particle
size. The first is the disk plow followed by the land plane which
both refines the particle size and flattens and levels the ground.
Once the soil is prepared, we lay out orchard rows. We place
small bags of soil to mark where each row will be formed.
Humberto, our tractor driver, will use these bags to guide him
while pulling a Ridger implement to create long straight berms
of soil about 10 inches in height that will become the rows that
we plant.
By the end of this week, our field will be ready to plant but we
won’t be able to start planting until February or March, weather
dependent. The nursery with whom we work needs to wait
until late December to be sure the trees are in a deep state of
dormancy before digging them up for delivery.
Our new trees should arrive in January. They will be kept in cold
storage while we wait for the winter rains to subside. When
wet, our clay loam soil essentially turns into a thick claylike
substance making it impossible to work with. Additionally,
driving heavy equipment over wet soil greatly damages soil
structure. So spring will be both blooming and planting season
at Frog Hollow. We will keep you posted!

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