Yes! I did get the peas planted before the torrential rains. The were
not drowned nor washed out of the ground though there was a puddle over part of a row for
almost a day. If my garden was not on level ground, rains like that might well have caused
some erosion unless I was careful.
The first measure to take against erosion is to
plant rows across the slope, not up and down. This will help keep water from running.
Three inches of rain in thirty hours or so will soak all but the most porous soil and when
that happens to tilled soil the water that accumulates on the surface will find a way to
Barriers need to be put in place to check the flow of water. These may be strips of
untilled soil. The sod or other established growth will slow the water and cause it to fan
out. The roots and any thatch will also absorb more water than bare soil. Slowing the
water will cause any silt that was picked up on the tilled area to settle out rather than
having it continue to wash farther down the slope.
In the case of my peas I could have mulched them after planting. I would have used a
thick hay mulch which would have kept any soil from moving. The mulch would first absorb
the splashing force of the rain drops, then absorbed an amazing amount of the rain before
it even reached the soil and, lastly, once the mulch and soil were thoroughly soaked it
would have impeded any flow of water on the soil surface. My peas were planted in rows
that I dug by hand leaving the rest of the garden covered with last year's mulch and plant
remains. That ground cover would provide protection against erosion, too, if I needed it.
The most labor-intensive way to control erosion is needed only on more severe slopes.
That is contouring the land into level terraces. The slopes between the terraces are
either planted in some good ground cover that will hold the soil or they are actually
vertical structuresstone walls or timbers.
As pleased as I am with planting my peas I am disappointed at being parsnip deprived, a
perennial disgrace. I should be digging parsnips fresh from the garden right now. Those
sweet earthy vegetables are at their best after a winter frozen in the ground where they
stored the sun's goodness for the task of putting forth a blossom and making seeds for the
next generation. They are especially wonderful if you have been trying to live off the
garden's bounty all year 'round. The root cellar vegetables are getting kind of tired by
now and canned and frozen vegetables are getting tiresome.
Why doesn't Mr. Long-Range-Planning have parsnips? Why does he forget to plant them
year after year?
I don't know. I had the seed last spring and I had a place on the plot for them to be
planted. It must be some kind of mental block. They can be planted right now. I think I
better put the seeds out on the table where I'll be sure to remember to plant them.
© April 20, 1997
Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For
Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine
in 1987. He is a consultant for organizations. You
can eat his organic produce at his son's southern