Preparing Fields for Planting

Spring is coming – really!

Early spring soil preparation at ICF

It may be discouraging to look outside at the blustery snow, but down on the farm, spring is advancing.  ICF is your living proof – inside the greenhouse and out! Last week we were out on our tractors in the fields, getting an early start on our spring tillage, and we expect to begin seeding and transplanting outside by early next week.  The first field work of the outdoor season is an exciting time for any farmer, and it usually begins with tillage.

Tillage is the general term used by many farmers for the mechanical activity of preparing the soil.  This is a broad term that includes all manner of activities including plowing, harrowing, discing, rototilling, spading, cultivating, and many more.  It is often subdivided into primary-, secondary-, and finish-tillage, depending on where the particular action fits into the soil preparation sequence.  Most crops require multiple tillage operations prior to planting.  This varies with the nature of the soil surface prior to primary tillage (bare soil or covered with vegetation; if so, what kind and how much?), as well as with the intended final result (a nubbly surface acceptable for larger transplants, or a smooth-as-silk planting bed for tiny carrot or arugula seeds?), and the amount of time available prior to planting (rushing to plant ASAP, or have some weeks before the field is needed?)  In general, less is more, because repeated tillage damages soil structure and health.  In order to minimize soil damage, our aim at ICF is always to do as little as we can, while achieving the result we need.  We also employ many other practices to build soil and offset some of the damage wrought by tillage.

Chisel plowing soil-improving cover crops in preparation for the 2018 potato crop.