Mississippi State University.  January 2015.  Sometimes we need to go back to square one and run the checklist to make sure we have not forgotten something. This is true in any kind of activity but it is especially critical for the production of crops. I hesitate to say it but farmers whether large or small are sometimes the worst procrastinators when it comes to getting the land ready for the next crop.

One of the most important things I have learned about soil, not only from professors but from successful farmers and gardeners, is that you never stop improving the soil. This is necessary if you want your crops to grow well and produce the kind of yields and quality that you can be proud of and that also can pay good dividends at the marketplace. You don’t just go out one day and decide to plant a crop if you expect to be successful.

It takes planning and preparation to make it all work right. I know that some people make it look so easy that you think anyone can do it, but these people who have the proverbial “green thumb” also have several other attributes, not the least of which are a bright minds and willingness to apply their knowledge, and patience to begin ahead of time and see the work through to the end without getting distracted by things that don’t matter.

It also helps to be the kind of person who enjoys working with the land and accepting the challenge to take the gifts we have come together to produce good results. I know that I have said several times before that there is no more beautiful sight than a field of dew-covered corn glistening in the sun rises on a June morning. If things like that don’t strike you as special you may need to let someone else grow your crops or your garden.

This time of year there are lots of decisions to be made as we prepare for another crop. Farmers who grow big acres of crops like corn, cotton, and soybeans have to start thinking about their rotation plans, what kind of weed control strategy to employ, which varieties to plant, and this year they have another issue in the form of a new farm bill that requires that some pretty complicated questions be answered, but the one thing that should be standard procedure for them is that the soil must be fed so that their crops can produce well. And really, the other decisions don’t really matter much if this work is not done correctly.

Soil test recommendations must be followed as well as possible regardless of whether you are planting a thousand acres of cotton or a thousand square feet of vegetables. The principles are the same. You are about to depend upon the soil to feed you so you need to feed it first.  It comes down to knowing how, as I once heard a wise old farmer say “It’s not just knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.”

These days we hear a lot of people talking about being prepared for unexpected events. These people refer to themselves as “preppers”. The original preppers were farmers and gardeners who developed the skills to make the land produce their food. If you have not learned these skills it’s time you did.