The season is moving along. Compost has been spread, beds have been prepped, and a greenhouse’s worth of flats have been transplanted. Dan, Steve, and I have been zipping all over the farm like a small army of ants, yet there’s not much to show for our efforts, in terms of visuals or food. Many of the beds are covered in tarps, to warm the soil ahead of planting, and no sooner do we plant than we lay down sheets of row cover to keep out pests. At the end of the day, the best we can expect to bring home is a pocket full of dirt. But we are keenly aware of the season’s potential. Just as the dog days of summer don’t arrive until weeks after the solstice, there is a long lapse between toil and harvest. The fields may look uninviting now, but once November rolls around, we’ll be filling harvest crates faster than you can sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
One new idea we’re trying this spring—compost twinkies! Or ring dings, or ho hos, whatever cream-filled confection you can imagine. Sounds weird, but hear me out. Throughout the year we stockpile horse manure and let it age until it’s broken down into a nutrient-rich compost. In the spring we lay it on the fields with the manure spreader, an open-ended wagon that drops a thin layer several feet wide. For many crops, however, we’d prefer a more concentrated application—a thick layer one foot wide. Enter the compost twinkie. We start by digging a trench down the length of the bed. Then we fill the trench with compost. Last but not least, the tractor closes the trench with a pair of hilling disks. The final product is a low hill, covered with top-soil, filled with compost. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but planting tomatoes into such a rich environment fills me with the same anticipation that a ring ding-packed lunchbox did in third grade.