Farm Focus: Preparing for Planting

While the weather remains largely dry, our Ground Team hasbeen 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!