What IS Soil Rule #1?
Never Ever Work the Soil When It is Wet or Damp or Clumping or Sticking to the Shovel.
How did I learn that this is an important rule? THE HARD WAY, of course.
We had help in the garden and wanted the paths to be re-defined, so we went ahead and shoveled some of the wonderful soil out from the walking path to make a bit of a raised mound for the beds. Alas, I didn't stop when I saw how the soil kept the shape of the shovel scoop.
I thought perhaps the rain which was coming would wash it into smaller pieces, or soften it. But no.
Through weeks of sitting out in rain and wind and sun (since 3/30), it stayed put, like this:
The shovel is standing in the walking path, soon to be dug. On the left is a path which has been lined with weed barrier cloth and wood mulch. This made so much more work for me, as it all has to be hoed and raked and then covered with straw, hopefully to regain some life and moisture and bring back the worms which no doubt fled to the terra firma beneath.
Today I did some more Triage on my work schedule (as in the 4/18 post). Sadly, I had to choose between continuing planting the potatoes (which NEEDS to be done) along with their companion plants, and the hard work of taming the soil in the rows. After several days of sun and wind, I knew the soil would be dry, even though caked hard.
There's a chance of rain tonight and tomorrow and then it would be too late to do this job. The soil work was important as it is almost time to plant the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers (and their companions) in these rows. Intensely physical exertion, and beneficial breaks all day today and I have but one row left to finish. Below, you can see on the left what the finished row looks like. Don't look at the soil on the right.
Now I have direct experience of the validity of this soil rule.
And I promise myself to follow it from now on.
Actually this year I am hoping to have the garden design somewhat set so I can keep straw mulch on it always and not need to dig it again. That is, after all, the definition of a "no till garden". Something to remember in the fall. No matter how tired from the season and the putting up of the harvest - clean, clear and re-mulch! I believe that also will be a rule.
Laziness or tiredness
May seem to rule the moment
Yet the extra effort of "following the rules"
Brings less work and more joy
To the gardener who is Wise.
(quote from "The Way of the Garden"
as yet unwritten by the author of this journal)