Jacob Cecil Logan was my Granddaddy. He was a tobacco farmer. Once farming pulses through your veins, there is no turning back. Even though tobacco was J.C.’s primary cash crop, he fed his family from the clay-rich soil of Clarksville,Tennessee. Every year about this time, he would burn the plant beds to get them ready for sowing. Corn cobs were broadcast over the beds which were then set afire. The heat from the fire would kill any weed seeds and pests. Granddaddy’s generation of farmers integrated weed and pest control without even the mere thought of harsh chemicals and genetically modified seeds.
One of the last conversations I had with him was about burning the plant beds. It was late February or early March. Grandaddy was very ill and facing the end of his life. This particular day he was insistent that I fetch his coveralls and go load the 17 foot wagon full of corn cobs. My hardworking Granddaddy could not shake his instinct to provide. I still get misty eyed just thinking about his tender, little heart.
Some folks may disagree with J.C.’s approach to natural farming. It is believed that not only will the weeds and pests be destroyed in the burning process, so will helpful organic material necessary for a biodynamic practice. Others feel that the nutrients are well below the soil surface of what a burn would deplete. Granddaddy was never much for controversy. I’m not certain, but somehow I believe Granddaddy would have let a little chuckle and said, “Well, I do say!”
The rule of thumb is once buttercups have come up, it is time to plant peas, radish and cold-hardy greens. I suspect around St. Patrick’s Day is when I will actually start planting. Meanwhile, there is plenty of work to be done. This week was perfect weather to prepare the beds. We have just a little over 1/2 acre of yard space. Snow peas and spinach taste so much better than bermuda grass. So, a good portion of our “yarden” is now freshly tilled. There will at least be one more round of tilling before amending the soil and planting the seeds. Meanwhile, I have pruned the fruit trees and fed my spring flowering bulbs with a sprinkle of bone meal.
Last fall, Pank really got into seed saving. We have quite a collection thanks to him. To supplement, I have found several great resources. Click on the following links for my favorites:
The Nashville Public Library Seed Exchange
All Seasons Gardening and Brewing Supply Co.