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June 30, 2019
From Wet to Dry, Thankfully
Notes From The Field
by Farmer Derek
A brief passing shower gave us rainbow glory.
The rounds of thunderstorms that rolled through the area Friday and Saturday evenings spared the farm an inundation but did provide a nice double rainbow. Following a week with 4" of rain we desperately needed a period of dry weather. Any more rain probably would have doomed the carrots but it fortunately seems most of the patch is harvestable.
We were able to resume all of the required field work last week including cultivating leeks, celeriac, lettuces, herbs, beans, and edamame. Tomatoes were pruned and trellised again. Weekly beans and lettuces were transplanted. Spring crops were mowed, compost was spread, and then the ground was chisel-plowed to stimulate decomposition before we sow cover crops. Land for fall crops of beets, chard, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale was loosened with the chisel plow again but this time around with the added extra tillage of a row of s-tines on the back to rid the soil of germinating weeds and persistent grasses. Because the shanks on the chisel plow are spaced 12" apart weeds can sometimes survive a pass in the gaps between shanks. Adding the s-tines on the back, which are placed in the space between the chisel shanks, the top of the soil profile is disturbed more completely.
This time of year when preparing soil that had been in a winter cover crop such as wheat, vetch, and/or clover requires two passes with the flail mower, an initial chisel, another chisel with the s-tines, then we begin making our raised beds which requires a pass with the primary shaper then two passes with the final shaper (with each shaper pass we drop organic fertilizer). In between each pass with the tractor we ideally receive some rain to entice weeds to germinate which are then terminated by the next tractor pass. Preparing soil that has been fallowed for a longer period of time and is typically taken over by perennial grasses and clovers requires an extra pass or two with a chisel plow or disk harrow before we can begin making beds. The process takes place over a month or two.
We've modified our soil prep techniques over the years to retain proper soil structure as well as increase organic matter even though it takes a longer period of time to prepare soil for planting. Contrast these extra steps with spring planting after winter-killed cover crops (oats, buckwheat, radish) which normally requires only one pass with the chisel plow followed by bed shaping.
Why is this important you ask? Good question. For several reasons: Each pass with the tractor takes time and fuel. When soil is disturbed the biology, chemistry, and physical properties are interacted/interfered with. Thus our goal is to find that intersection where reduced time on the tractor meets improved soil health meets good planting conditions. We believe properly used tillage and farming techniques can greatly improve soil (and produce) over time.
U-pick flowers opened up last week with not one but two locations available for picking. Rudbeckia aka black eyed susans volunteered in the strawberry patch in addition to the planned cut-flower patch.