Cultivating the Garden Area
The overall reason for cultivating the garden area is to improve the soil for the next crop planting. Cultivating the garden allows you to break up the soil surface to enhance better penetration of water, air, and nutrients in the soil that plants need access to for all stages of growth. Penetrating air will improve the micro-organisms in the soil structure and increase soil nutrients plant growth in all stages of life. Another advantage of cultivating the garden is it makes it easier for newly germinated seeds to come up in the soil surface. Although it does bring weed seeds to the top of the soil it will also pull young seedlings to the soil surface and if left exposed they will die off. The most important reason for reducing weed germination is the decrease in competition between weeds and plants for nutrients and water. The importance of suppressing weeds is so the plants do not have to fight for the water and nutrients that they need to grow in the vegetable garden. Cultivating the garden area will allow for easier workable soil and an increase of healthier and productive crops in the vegetable garden.
Reasons to Cultivate After Heavy Rainfalls
On this week’s episode, Travis discusses how to cultivate the garden area after a heavy amount of rainfall. After heavy rains, typically your soil is leveled out and packed down in the garden. This can cause an issue with weed control and soil crusting. With flattened or compacted soil this will increase weed germination because of the amount of moisture that is in the soil. We recommend keeping the top couple of inches cultivated to avoid those weeds germinating. The second reason for cultivating the soils after heavy rain is to avoid soil crusting. Even in sandy loam soils if we let the soil sit for several days we will get crusting on the top of the soil that will make it harder to cultivate for the garden rows. So in order to prevent weed germination and soil crusting we should begin cultivating the garden as soon as we can after the hard rainfall. Travis’s general rule of thumb when determining when it’s safe to cultivate in the garden is by stepping out into the garden and if his feet don’t sink in the soil it’s ready to cultivate. The preferred tool he likes to use for cultivating after heavy rain is the Single Wheel Hoe with three cultivator teeth. This makes it easy to just go along the garden rows and scratch the soil and break up the soil crust. Cultivating the first couple of inches of soil will also help to aerate the soil and let it dry out better so the garden doesn’t stay wet for a prolonged period of time. We prefer to use the wheel hoe to cultivate after heavy rains over a tiller or tractor because it is lightweight, strong, and more manageable. We avoid frequent use of the tiller in the garden because it can destroy our soil structure and increase our weed germination. In order to maintain a healthy soil structure in the garden, we avoid frequent use of the tiller to help from disrupting and compacting the soil. The increase of weeds is because when tilling the soil we flip the bottom soil over and allow for weed seeds to be exposed and obtain moisture to germinate in the vegetable garden. Overall, cultivating the garden after a lot of rain will ensure that you maintain weed control and keep your soil surface workable in the future.