Spring at the Farm: Preparing for the Next Crop

A few photos around this farm this spring.

WHN is now at the point where we will be replanting some of our original tree blocks from 2012-2013.  The first step in this process is field ripping.

Field ripping or subsoiling is soil cultivation practice that helps reduce hardpan layers created in soils due to surface compaction or from using older tillage practices, including moldboard plows that turn the soil over in a furrow slice at the same depth each time when plowed.  This was a common agriculture tool and practice for rows crops like corn and soybeans prior to the more modern no-till methods or chisel plows utilized now.  The fields we are replanting were ripped or subsoiled with a smaller single-shank plow back in 2012 and 2013, but prior to this the field was in row crop production.  Eric has been able to locate a larger subsoiler/ripper and larger tractor to help break up residual hard layers and to help fill in holes where trees were harvested.  This is especially important in the drive roads that were planted in turf; the compaction from trucks and equipment over the past 5 years adds up and needs to be addressed in order to provide a good medium for root growth.

The two-shank subsoiler/ripper we are using now has a winged wedge at the bottom of the steel shank that goes into the soil 12-18”.  When pulled behind the tractor, the ground will actually raise up a couple of inches.  We try to subsoil/rip each field twice, prior to planting or replanting.  Ideally, we would like to do this in two different directions. In this case, since we are targeting a field that was in previously in nursery production, we are subsoiling parallel to our planting rows–paying special attention to where trees were planted and to the drive roads.  The next step in the soil preparation will be to disk the field to break up the vegetation and mix the organic matter from the turf and clover plantings back into the soil and prepare a seedbed for this summer’s cover crop of sudangrass and buckwheat.  This fall we will subsoil and disk again prior to replanting trees or putting in a winter cover crop prior to a spring planting.