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Sinking into the Soil

Finally sinking my hands into the soil at the Giltract was quite rewarding. It brought me back to my time working on a farm in Santa Cruz. Long hours in the sun amending soil in a wheel barrow, transplanting, watering, building fences and goofing around with family and friends was a magical experience for me. The Giltract gives me a sense of nostalgia from my late teen years there.

For me one of the most interesting parts of farming has always been the preparation and labor that goes into creating a space that plant life will thrive. The number of hours that go into farming produce really demonstrates the value of freshly grown food. The process of prep work is described in Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal work: Essential Urban Farmer. The beds at the Giltract have been kept up over the years, so some the steps we learn in chapter six likely don’t apply for what we will be doing in class at the farm. I find the “double digging” process to be of particular interest. This strategy maximizes the aeration of the soil. The process utilizes the digging fork to aerate the soil toward the bottom of the trench so that water can easily soak through the soil and avoid a situation in which stagnant water would cause harm to the delicate root system.[1]

We were able to do a little bed prepping work on Monday and used the digging fork to aerate the top layer before adding a layer of compost. This process seems key to a healthy raised bed. On top of this learning experience we were fortunate to have a detailed presentation on the process of composting.

There seems to be no absolute right way to compost. There are wrong ways, however, but many people employ different valid methods. For example: In the past when I have made compost there was never a layering component to it. We took our organic matter, plant scraps, egg shells, decaying leaves, etc. and threw them in a big pile. It was fascinating to hear about the composting process on a large scale at the Giltract where a layering system is implemented with carefully constructed wooden boxes to hold in heat. The richness of this almost black colored compost signaled to me the high quality of the compost and the process. Now that we have learned a little bit about prepping beds I’m excited to move on to getting seeds and starters into the ground.

[1] Essential Urban Farmer, pp. 98

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