March is a good time to get the soil ready for planting and irrigating. We got this process going in early March and like to get started as soon as the soil can be worked. In years past, we have done some soil cultivation and even planting of peas and favas in February!
To articulate the process we use might be helpful so some people who also have small landholdings of an acre or so and do flood irrigation. We use a BCS 8 Horsepower tiller with a sickle-bar mower and hiller/furrower attachments for most of the work. A Stihl brushcutter is also used to cut weeds and even clear lateral ditches with metal blades, plastic blades, or the line trimmer, depending on the type of vegetation to be cleared.
So first the land is cleared of weeds by cutting them down by hand, with the brushcutter, or the sickle-bar mower. Then they are raked into piles and removed. This cut vegetation is good for the compost pile, especially mixed with a little bit of chicken manure. Finished compost is applied to the land to be incorporated with tilling and the making of rows. I typically put one full wheelbarrow of compost per row, so that is about 6 cubic feet per 7o foot row. Then the tiller comes through and breaks up and mixes the soil. Then the hiller/furrower attachment is put on the tiller to make the rows, as seen above.
The rows are constructed on the level or slight downhill using an A-frame or water level to identify the contour of the land. Often times the level points are identified on the lateral ditches on each end of the property and the irrigation row connects those points with a slight half-moon or bow shape to channel the water to the center. The irrigation row then also serves as a swale in the off-season.
After this process, the rows are ready for planting. They will have to be cleaned up and connected to the lateral ditches by hand using a shovel or a hoe before irrigation can occur. As a final step for soil preparation, it is nice to use a digging fork or broadfork to pierce the soil and allow for water penetration into the subsurface. Depending on the amount of time available, I like to poke into the soil about every 2 or 3 feet down the row as shown in the picture below.
Hopefully this post was helpful in giving you ideas about soil preparation, let me know if you have any questions!