I learned a new word today: dibble. It can be used as a noun or a verb. As a noun it refers to “a pointed gardening implement used to make holes in soil, especially for planting bulbs or seedlings.” In its verb form, “to make holes in (soil) with a pointed implement or to plant by means of a pointed implement.” Fancy, huh?
Before we get to the dibbling, let me fill in what we’ve been up to this week. We spent most of the week laying plastic mulch. It’s a long sheet of (supposedly) biodegradable plastic that you stretch out along your bed. You pull it tight and cover the edges with soil to hold the plastic in place. The plastic helps suppress weeds which are the main challenge for herbicide-free farms like Coverdale. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do this manually. The tractor has a very cool bed laying attachment that actually makes the beds (rows), lays the drip tape (for irrigation – more on this later), lays the plastic and piles dirt up on the edges to keep it in place. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but it’s still better than laying it by hand.
Once the plastic is laid, you have to poke holes for the plants. Enter dibbling. The first year Dan worked at the farm they used screwdrivers and yardsticks. Why yardsticks? Plants are big on personal space and if you don’t give them enough, they crowd each other and die. But you also don’t want to give them too much space because that is wasteful. So two years ago was the screw driver/yardstick method. It was a tedious, slow-moving process.
Last year Dan got piece of ply wood and hammered some nails through at the proper distances. Better than the screw driver/yardstick method, but still not super efficient. This year he borrowed an actual onion dibble, or “the dibbler” as he called it, to help speed up the onion-planting process. What is an onion dibble? Well, it’s this:
Some kind of strange torture device left over from the Medieval ages. You line the barrel up with the plastic mulch and roll it along the row. It pokes perfectly-spaced holes for faster onion planting
What took the whole team hours last year and days the year before took two of us ten minutes. Here’s to innovation! All that was left was to plop the onions into the holes and hook up the drip tape to get them some water.
Of course, 12,000 onions still take a long time to plant, regardless of how quickly you dibble your rows. We planted 25 bunches of red onions (we have 50 bunches total) and 5-6 bunches of white (also 50 total, plus 50 yellow). Each bunch has 50-100 onions depending on the size. Yeah, we planted a lot of onions.
Somehow taking care of 200+ cows, calves and steers was a lot less work than planting onions.