Corn Maze, What’s next when building one…. part 3


April 8

Oh poo, well more like manure that is. In order for any crop to grow well a lot of things need to happen. In the first blog post we talked about harvesting the crop at the end of the growing season. In the last one we discussed taking a soil sample. Over the winter months not much happens in the field but “weathering” does occur. Weathering is a natural process where the weather works on the soil. Do you remember science class and what happens to water when it freezes?

Rock cracked by water freezing inside of it.

Rock cracked by water freezing inside of it.

While things appear “solid” to us not many things really are. Practically everything has small spaces or pores within it. Rocks are no different, they have little spaces inside of them and depending upon the type of rock some are larger than others. Water finds its way into these little spaces and when it gets cold and freezes (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit) it expands. It is an enormously powerful force, strong enough to lift buildings, crack metal or rocks.

Copper pipes that cracked because of water that froze and expanded

Copper pipes that cracked because of water that froze and expanded

The same weathering forces act upon the soil in the fields. In fact we like it to happen especially in corn maze fields. All those foot falls of people walking across the field pack the soil down and freezing and thawing really help break it up. Over winter the snow and rain falls on the field and finds its way into the soil.

Rain water seeps into cracks in the soil

Rain water seeps into cracks in the soil

Soil is about 50% air and water and about 50% mineral and organic compounds portions are called soil colloids . It is the water in these spaces that freezes and thaws over the winter months that push the soil particles apart allowing for air and water to move between them more easily that we get the benefits of this process. When the soil “heaves” (not good for alfalfa fields, but that is another story) the soil loosens, actual cracks get formed which allow for later rainfall and other nutrients to find their way into the soil where plants can use them.

japanese bettle life cycle

japanese bettle life cycle

Another upside to a good long hard freeze is it kills a lot of critters living underground. Some actually have a form of anti-freeze in their blood but a good freeze still gets a lot of them.

liquid manure after application before plowdown

liquid manure after application before plowdown

We also can use this time of year to apply fertilizer both animal manure based as well as other forms. We like to put a small amount of pellitized lime and ammounium sulfate.

Lime Truck spreading lime

Lime Truck spreading lime

You try and catch the ground when it just a has bit of frost on top that holds you up but not frozen so much you have a hard time plowing it. And frozen is no substitute for proper moisture. We don’t plow when it is too wet! This is sort of a delicate balance and not always easy to hit.

Plowing maze immediately after manure is applied.

Plowing maze immediately after manure is applied.

Well this post about our Corn Maze has gotten a bit long! Time to go, we started to talk about plowing and preparing the soil for planting. Next time we will talk a bit more about how we approach overall fertility.

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