Rototilling a Sidewalk

Plants (except peppers) removed

The plants in the big tunnel are done. Well, mostly. I placed a layer of reemay on top of the 3-row bed of Carmen peppers that still look good but could use some ripening. Otherwise, I have removed all viable tomatoes and cucumbers and have composted the remainder. The double pallet-composter that Dad built near the tunnel will be nicely filled after the peppers are out.

I removed the lumber wrap from the east half of the tunnel and spread it outside in a double layer behind the tunnel to hopefully keep the swamp grass it’s covering from becoming a menace next year. Underneath the wrap were some very hard hills and furrows, made hastily in the spring with the help of the BCS rotary plow. Near the side where the open-pollinated pepper resided in a flat bed, an 18” wide strip of the soil there is as hard as concrete, since we tended to use that area as our sidewalk over the summer.

Nasty compacted clay

Rototilling the hills was challenging but nothing compared to this compacted strip. Since the blades of the tiller turn faster than the wheels of the tractor, the whole unit leaps forward when the blades cannot break the surface of the soil. I had a couple of close calls in nearly crashing into the bottom of the PVC posts anchored at the very edge of the bed. Happily, 3 or 4 passes later and the soil is looking pretty decent. I’ll add some sand and compost and maybe some other stuff to lighten it prior to planting in it next spring. Because of our poor sun exposure, I don’t think a cover crop of fall rye (which would be nice for breaking the clay up a bit) would be able to do much prior to early May. I may change my mind, though.

The finished product

While I wait for more peppers to ripen and now that the inside of the tunnel is relatively open and flat, I will do a couple of structural modifications in preparation for the tunnel’s first winter. In the spring, I simply screwed the polylock track (the aluminum channel which uses z-shaped spring wire to pinch polyethylene inside it) to the arches. In other words, only the sched 40 wall thickness of the PVC plastic and a few #8 wood screws are holding the full force of a winter’s wind being harnessed by the poly. I’ll modify that by bolting the track to the PVC.

I will also add a couple of diagonal V-braces to each side of every centre post to distribute vertical support a few feet on either side of centre. Hopefully this will allow any snow build up at the flattest part of the tunnel to sit there without collapsing the structure. Any snow further away from the centre should fall away before getting too heavy since the slope there is greater.

Meanwhile, the official Tuesday market is over. But the unofficial one starts this week. A few of us plan to be there. I’ve got a boatload of brassicas and some other stuff that people have just started to think about. Cabbage soup anyone?


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