"April Is the Cruelest Month"

Fortunately, T. S. Eliot didn't have farming in mind when he wrote the beginning of his long poem "The Waste Land."  This month did seem to start out that way though.  On the last day of March, we woke up with the ground covered with snow and ice from an overnight storm.  When Carol and I left the next day, April Fool's Day, for a long-awaited week in sunny California, the ground here was still completely covered by a white blanket, much of it about a foot thick.  We were very pleasantly surprised a week later, upon our return, that over half the ground was now bare, and most of the remnants of a long, cold winter were melting away.  

Last day of March, morning after snow/ice storm.
Last day of March, morning after snow/ice storm.
Four days later: Me (Mr. Cool) and son Daniel at Newport Beach, CA
Four days later: Me (Mr. Cool) and son Daniel at Newport Beach, CA

With the late snow-melt, we expect to plant out the gardens a little later than usual, as the ground will probably stay too muddy to work a little longer than normal.  The ground in the rolling greenhouse was firmer though, and we were able to plant out tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, basil, dill, and cilantro.  Just in time, as some of the seedlings had grown almost too large.  Before we planted, we spread out and turned in a 3-inch layer of biochar/compost mix.  The soil really looks a lot better already, and we are expecting great results from the biochar.  In the other greenhouse, we are seeing very nice growth on the trees planted with biochar there.  Two of the avocado trees ("Holiday" variety) have grown from about 5' tall to 7' tall in the 6 months since they were planted, and the other four avocado trees ("Hass" variety-my favorite) and citrus trees are all bushing out nicely.

Raking out biochar/compost mix in rolling greenhouse.
Raking out biochar/compost mix in rolling greenhouse.
Completely spread, ready to be tilled.
Completely spread, ready to be tilled.
Rolling greenhouse: beds constructed and seedlings transplanted.
Rolling greenhouse: beds constructed and seedlings transplanted.
The beautiful Miss Carol pointing to height of avocado tree when it was planted in October.
The beautiful Miss Carol pointing to height of avocado tree when it was planted in October.

While on our trip, I took the opportunity to reread The Biochar Revolution.  I first read it two years ago, right after meeting Bob Wells and Peter Hirst, who both recommended it.  I had already struggled though my son Sean's copy of Johannes Lehmann's tome on biochar and was eager for a more user-friendly book, which I found The Biochar Revolution to be.  Nevertheless, upon rereading it, I was amazed at how much more I got out of it the second time.  Probably because of all the other exposure I've had to biochar via hands-on experience, last fall's symposium, interaction with the biochar community, and other reading.  At any rate, I highly recommend the book to anybody interested in biochar, from just wanting a basic intro to wanting more in-depth info.  It covers history, background, science, production, agriculture, testing, and environmental issues, written by many of the pioneers in the biochar movement, and edited by Paul Taylor.  It's the best overall book on biochar that I've come across.

Steve