Saturday, August 1, 2020: Soil Texture Activity
Seems like we have a number of technical issues using zoom.
Darn coronavirus. I wish you all could be here at the farm with me!
Nonetheless, we can make do with what we have at the moment.
First, I want for you to close your eyes and imagine you have just become a farmer. You have just been given a piece of land, and you are in charge of feeding yourself and all your friends.
You may want to walk around outside for this. Inspect the textures of the different soils. They are not all the same!
What types of things do you imagine when you think of "good" soil? How dark is it? Is it wet? Is it dry? Take your time. Where do you see the biggest plants? What does the soil look like?
Soil texture is determined by the proportions of different-sized mineral particles in your soil.
Now, take your jar with soil in it. Fill it up to the top with water. Shake it up!
Watch the particles settle. Do you see the way they form horizons?
Measure the height of each horizon. Then multiply by 100 for the percentage of each mineral.
A tricky thing can be figuring out which plants grow best where. There is not necessarily "good" or "bad" soil. There is simply what we can do with different soil textures. Many plants, such as grapes, require well-drained soil. Other plants are not so picky.
Do you have an idea of what types of fruits and vegetables could grow well in the soil type you have in your jar? Don't feel bad if you can't figure that one out. It is pretty advanced stuff, and most farmers wouldn't get so far into the nitty-gritty. But, it's fun to know that understanding our soil texture can make us better farmers and gardeners! Planting things where we know they will grow best is an awesome tool in our gardening toolkit.
This is a more technical means of determining your soil texture. A simpler way of doing this is to simply walk around and pick up handfuls of soil and crumble them in your hand.
Most plants prefer a loose, granular structure. When you squeeze a handful of damp garden soil and squeeze it,
if it crumbles slightly when you release your grip, its texture is probably satisfactory.
If it runs through your fingers, it is too sandy. If it forms a sticky lump, it is too clayey.
Loamy soils, which contain moderate amounts of clay, silt, and sand often
suit plants best.
Whew! That was a lot!
This week, try and notice some attributes of the soils you stumble upon.
For next week, get your mind thinking this week about compost.
What do you already know about compost?
Thanks for participating in this week's activity.
I look forward to seeing you all again!
Please upload a picture of your soil jar and send it to
When you are new to farming, it can often be difficult to get the hang of when to harvest particular fruits and vegetables. Harvesting too early or too late can result in disappointingly bitter meals, or sad and moldy veggies in the garden. I am from Minnesota, where we cannot grow things that need higher temperatures, including cayenne pepper. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had been harvesting them here in TN too early! I didn’t know peppers could get so red!
Here on the farm, we have cucumbers, dill, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers, as well as a variety of herbs.
So, we are going to go over how to harvest different fruits and vegetables. This week, there will not be a hands-on activity, because it is not something you can do unless you have these plants growing in your garden.
Harvest winter squash about a week before the first frost. There is a small time window that is best for harvesting winter squash. The longer you leave them on the vine, the sweeter they will get, but do not leave them past frost.
Summer squash (zucchini):
You can harvest summer squash when it gets to be about 9 inches long. On the ends, you will see the remnants of the flower that became the fruit, and once these have fallen off, the zucchini is ready to eat. Zucchini only get bigger and bigger the longer you leave them on the vine. The smallest ones are the sweetest, and they grow very quickly, so there often are zucchini every day!
This depends on the type of bean. Our beans are juicy and full when they are ready to harvest. We are leaving a portion of the beans to be harvested later when they have fully matured for seed saving. We harvest beans when they are plump and juicy. When I had my first garden, I accidentally left my soybeans on the vine too long because I expected them to be soft when they were ready. I didn’t realize that they only get soft when you cook them. Facepalm, right?
Cucumbers also are the sweetest when you harvest them early. The smaller ones are used for pickling, because they do not have as high a water content. The nice thing about harvesting cucumbers is that there are harvestable ones almost every day of the growing season. If you accidentally leave a cucumber on the vine until it gets big and yellow and squishy, you can use it for seed saving. Knowing when a cucumber is ready to eat is fairly intuitive. I recommend taking a big bite, and if you like it, you like it! Over time, you get a feel for when they are at their peak. I recommend harvesting the majority of your cukes when they are about 6 inches long, and leaving the healthiest looking ones to become soft and yellow and ripe for seed saving.
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