A good soaking rain is a critical event and preparedness can possibly affect the outcome of the entire season when it comes to cover crop timing. Some of my farming practices revolve around the timing of rain, such as:
Cover it up if it has enough moisture to prevent nutrients from leaching out.
Leave it exposed if its dry so that it gets moist and becomes nice and spongy before applying. I have found that active compost piles can dry out from internal heat.
Apply to perennials before a big rain so the moisture will soak in the compost.
Right now this is the general procedure, best to be done when the soil is moist, but not muddy. Either right before the rain if the soil already has moisture so that the rain will water in the seeds, or a couple days after rain if I am waiting for the rain to provide the necessary moisture.
Wheelhoe to sever weeds -> Rake up weeds -> Broadfork to loosen soil -> Compost application -> Hoeing in compost -> “Tilthing” top 3″ for fine seedbed surface -> Bed shaping with a leaf rake -> Furrowing rake -> Seed furrows -> Rake in furrows -> Water
Great time to plant. In Northern California, the bulk of the rain is during the winter, so this means planting cover crop, or cool season favorites such as fava beans and peas, which require ample moisture to soak up in order to germinate. An old farming adage is, “If the dirts dry, don’t even try”
Great time to mulch. What happens if mulch stays dry? Wind, birds, and the nocturnal hijinks of racoons will muss it up. When mulch is evenly spread right before rain and then moistened, it gets glued together and flattened like pulp becoming paper. I mulch cover crop lightly in order to protect seeds from birds but still let light through, thickly around perennials to suppress weeds, and even thicker when covering a compost pile so that the mulch both intercepts and deflects the rain from the already moist compost but then protects the moisture during the spring and fall marathon of dessication. I also like to mulch while it is raining so that the straw gets damp, which allow it to be teased apart easier as well as have less dust.
As a barnless farmer, a lot of my gear and supplies are outside, so i rely upon tarps and rubbermaids to keep things dry. Lately i have found that used greenhouse plastic is preferable to tarps. It holds up to the elements so much better. The longer i do this, the less i like tarps because of their short life and their rapid disintegration into noxious plastic particles.
In short I am so grateful for this rain. I encourage you all to keep working the pole so mother nature makes it rain up in this club.