Up here in on our morainal hill, the “soil” starts as gray, kaolin clay. In addition to this clay/sand mix, here are a few pebbles here and there. The lowest spot in the garden must have been at one time a little glacial stream, because as you dig down, you encounter concentrations of pebbles and of small rocks. The occasional rocks are fist-sized to shoebox sized, just big enough to make a rototilller act like a bucking bronco when the tines hit them.
Because of this dense, slow-draining, marginally fertile earth, in order to get any garden results at all, Wishetwurra Farm must engage in a vigorous program of soil-building. Each year, loads of material are applied to the approximately 50′ X 90′ garden. Leaves, hay, ashes, charcoal (aka “biochar”), and seaweed are all brought in.
Also manure. We bring in a lot of manure.
The carting tally so far this year: all of last fall’s yard leaves, a few bales of hay, a couple of barrels of ashes, six barrels of charcoal from the annual brush burning, eleven loads of mixed seaweed, eleven loads of horse/cow/sheep manure, and twenty-six loads of horse manure.
Hauling all this stuff, in pickup truck and in wheelbarrow, is work. It’s work worth doing, because each year the soil improves. Every year, the garden’s fertility, and the soil structure, is better. Hauling yields results.
Hauling. It’s an important garden task. The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society has this year published “Bountiful”, a history of the MVAS, and of our annual Fair. Susan Klein and Alan Brigish created the book, which is a beautiful labor of love. On page 75 is a photograph of a man with a large-wheeled wooden cart, drawn by a pair of young oxen. The cart is full of manure. The caption on the photo is “Hauling what makes the garden grow”. For a good garden, you’ve got to haul stuff.
And then, you haul more stuff.
Your dirt won’t get better without additions.
On a quest for additions, yesterday, late morning, my three and a half year old grandson came with me on a trip to a neighbor’s house and barn, to get a load of horse pucky. The grandson is good company, he’s a good noticer-of-things, and he willingly throws his energy and his heart into whatever’s going on. He is a person of questions, too. Nonstop questions. “Whywhywhywhy”?
All those questions. Sometime’s it’s tiring, but he’s new here on the planet, everything IS new, and needs explanation. Questions are good. So we answer and explain. His knowledge, and his worldview expand. May he ask questions all his life.
Please, don’t stop asking those questions, keep learning, child, and maybe some day you’ll come up with some answers us old folks had never thought of before.