During this winter's rains, we canceled two Spring Blossom Walk events that we had scheduled for our CSA members. It may seem strange to cancel just because the ground was muddy after all the rains we received. Who doesn’t love a mud puddle? A little mud on your shoes – no big deal, right?
Don’t squish the soil
Brentwood’s soil is a mix of clay and clay loam – it’s heavy and the particles are fine. It’s a living thing, and we never want it to be compacted or constricted. Compacted soil won’t effectively absorb rain, and it creates conditions that are difficult for plants to grow in. Compacted soil also contributes to flooding.
While walking around in the orchard and getting a little muddy may seem harmless, our weight adds pressure to the soil. Driving a vehicle through the orchard when the ground is wet is even worse. Imagine hundreds or thousands of pounds of pressure pushing down on a delicate surface. This kind of damage takes a long time to undo, so we stay out of the orchard for as long as it takes.
A constant balance
We are grateful for the rains we received, but staying out of the orchard is not easy. It sets us back. We get behind on pruning and planting new trees. But we know that giving the soil time to absorb the moisture and dry out is crucial to our long-term success.
When it’s time to plant new orchards, we look for a crust that has formed on the surface of the soil. This happens when the rain mixes with the top layers of soil and the wind dries it out. This crust is not the same thing as compaction.
Once we see the crust on the surface, we break up the soil with our tractor and open everything up so we can plant. We have trees waiting to be planted– they want to be in the ground! Typically, we try to plant our trees between February and March. It’s almost the end of April, and we’re going to wait a little bit longer.
We have plenty of work to do as we come out of this rainy season. And we look forward to welcoming our CSA members back to the farm as soon as we can!