We were finally able to squeeze in a few days of planting outside of our tunnel over the past weekend. We put in several long days but we were able to get completely caught up on planting. Over the weekend we planted the following: potatoes, onions, peas, carrots, spinach, beets, kohlrabi, kale, arugula, popcorn, sweet corn, lettuce, swiss chard, and radish. In this post, we’ll go over a few of the tools we use for planting.
Tractor & Tiller
We use our John Deere tractor and tiller to prep the ground for planting. The tiller helps to break down residual matter from the previous year and to help soften the soil so that we can plant easily into it. It also helps us kill the first flush of weeds that started growing (though it also brings new weed seeds to the surface).
Tilling is a destructive means by which to prep soil. We try to mitigate the destructive potential through a variety of means. First, we only till very shallowly - about 2-3” deep so that we don’t disturb the deeper soil structure. Second, we plant cover crops as much as possible. Cover crops have amazing potential to help rebuild soil structure as well as many other benefits such as attracting beneficial insects, fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil, and suppressing weeds. We also use animal manure as our fertilizer source. Animal manure helps rebuild soil structure by introducing rich, organic matter in a form more stable and available to plants. Finally, we minimize our fall tillage (we use a chisel plow in the fall) to only the areas not under cover crop. These areas are where we have long season crops like winter squash, popcorn, and most melons.
One of my favorite planting tools is our Hoss Tools push seeder. The seeder has individual plates with holes of varying sizes and spacing to accommodate the various sizes of seeds we plant. It works by a drive wheel that rotates the seed plates and drops the seeds into the ground. The seeder also has adjustable depth.
I like the seeder because it’s so versatile. We have multiple plates and can plant nearly any type of seed. Not only that but we can get blank plates - that is, plates without pre-drilled holes, that we can use to create our own size and spacing! This gives us a lot of flexibility at a minimal cost and saves us hours of labor.
Wheel Hoe w/plow Attachment
We also use the Hoss Wheel hoe with plow attachment for onions and potatoes. Seed potatoes are just quartered potatoes - they’re too big and bulky for our seeder so we have to plant them by hand. We plant onion sets which are onions that have grown to about the size of a marble, then harvested and dried to be replanted the following year. We use the wheel hoe to plow open a furrow for planting. After we planted, we flip the plows around and cover the furrow.
We use a few other miscellaneous tools to help plant. We use an iPad for our record keeping, recording the date and row feet of crop planted. We use fence posts with string to help keep our rows straight an evenly spaced. We use a measuring wheel to help us make accurate length of rows.