The farmland we borrow on Rainbow Road has two distinct soil types: Mexicana and Cowichan which, if they were a 70’s sitcom, might be called Oscar and Felix. One is a flat low-lying clayey area upon which I have built a high tunnel. The other is a shaded, sloped, gravel pit. I previously wrote about both in Mexicowichan: The Soils of Chorus Frog Farm. Both have their positives and negatives but the Cowichan is the prize; (certainly not a Cadillac…but a lot better than steak knives).
I’m firing the Mexicana. Not only am I tired of picking rocks and cringing as they wear down rototiller tines but I despise all the water this soil requires. I can only practically irrigate using the expensive municipal source which is extra expensive in the summer, when it’s needed most. The Mexicana is well-shaded by one large maple, one monstrous maple and one medium apple tree. It is not shaded by the nearby firs but it does catch their showers of needles, making any leaf crop a real chore to clean. This section is also quite steep and polluted by blackberry in the fraction of it that might get enough sun. For next year I’ve toyed with the idea of using surplus seed from crops I don’t plan to grow out anymore and just broadcast it everywhere, taking whatever comes as a bonus, and feeding much of it to the chickens. But otherwise not spending much time on it. Let it permaculture itself.
The Cowichan, on the other hand, is less shaded (at least between Spring and Autumn equinoxes) and has enough water until the end of July when it too needs irrigation. Its main drawback is its clayey heaviness and its excess water in the spring. I’m hoping the ditches Dad dug this summer will help the excess water problem.
As for the clay, I’ve been working on it. Now that the tunnel plants are out and the soil is still dry, I’ve been beating the crap out of it with the tiller and my narrow-blade shovel, which allows me to get whatever the tiller can’t reach. Although the soil would prefer to be left alone (as all soil does), the process has been quite therapeutic for me as I witness its transformation to a soil that, at least temporarily, is nice and fluffy, apparently ready to accept new seedlings into comfy beds. Without amendments, though, any excess water will once again turn it into a slippery paste and then, by summer’s end, a tarmac.
And so it is that I’ve been collecting leaves in the last couple of weeks. I used the tractor with the dump cart to collect about 3 cubic yards of them which I spread evenly throughout the tunnel. I was thinking of getting a truckload of sand but I think I might be too cheap. I guess I’m not sure how much sand it would take to make a difference and, besides, I can already tell I’ll have an easier time planting next spring, and the leaves can only help.
The keen-eyed among you may have noticed the two arms I added to each of the centre support posts to distribute holding force at the top of the tunnel out to a wider area. On one hand, I can’t wait for a huge dump of snow, so I’d know for sure that it can handle it. On the other hand, I don’t need to know that bad.