Written by Rozelle Copeland.
It may be February, but there are still plenty of cold tolerant plants growing at The Farm at St. Joe’s and more crops being planted. The plastic walls of the hoop house let the sunshine heat the air and soil in the hoop house. Sometimes the air will drop below freezing inside, but the soil does not freeze, allowing cold tolerant plants to thrive.
I had the honor of assisting Amanda Sweetman, the Farmer at St. Joe’s, in preparing and seeding some of the beds in the back hoop house. The first step in preparing the beds is to aerate the soil. Here is a photo of Amanda using a large pitch-fork type farm gadget, called a broadfork, that aerates the soil so that the roots of plants can more easily have room grow.
The broadfork is used by standing on it and moving it back and forth and then repeating the process a few inches further down the bed.
Next compost is wheeled in and spread by hand. The compost adds new nutrients to the soil for the new plants to consume. Next the compost is mixed into the existing soil bed with another farm gadget. This helps the plant roots grow down, instead of growing in the rich compost on the top layer. To mix the soil, Amanda uses a mini-rototiller, a tilther, powered by a drill battery. There is a flap on the back of the rototiller that smooths the soil. To mark the rows for planting, we use a huge rake with rubber tubing on the ends of some of the tines.
After the beds have been prepared, we will either plant by hand or use tools–depending on what we’re planting. For small seeded plants that grow close together, we use the 6-seeder(left). For larger seeded plants we use the Earthway (top). For plants with really big seeds or that we want to plant precisely, we will seed by hand (bottom).
Check out the Farmer’s Market on Wed starting at 11:00am at SJMHS for farm fresh vegetables, and in a couple of weeks, fresh snap peas and turnips!