how we grow
People buy from local growers (be it flowers, honey, veggies, fruit or meat) for different
reasons, but certainly one that resonates with me - both as a consumer and grower - is the methods used. Particularly in the case of those working with plants, that means
how growers treat their soil.
Insofar as you can label our soil practices, we are a no-till farm. That means that we do what we can to minimize the disturbance of our soil. Tilling is a method that many farmers use to create nice fluffy soil that (in the short term) has good aeration and drainage, uproots any weeds that have taken root. In the long term, this practice can have detrimental effects on the soil’s microbiome (the community of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, archaea, arthropods and more), by repeatedly disturbing their environment. It also brings new weed seeds up to the surface, and encourages undesirable plants like thistle and dock that spread by root division. Deeper soils that are churned up to the surface also oxidize, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
So what do we do instead? As we are still in the early stages of growing this farm, we don’t have all our systems keyed in yet, but our typical soil prep goes like this:
First, we lay out a heavy duty tarp over a section of the field. This could be for anywhere from a few weeks in the summer to a couple months in the winter. The warmth and humidity under the tarp encourages weed seeds in the top layer of the soil to germinate, and then the lack of light kills them off. This reduces our weed pressure later in the season.
After we take the tarp off we loosen the soil with a broadfork. Instead of turning the soil over like you would with tilling, we simply crack the soil, leaving the soil layers intact, but introducing more opportunities for air and water to penetrate deep into the ground.
After this, we apply a 2 inch layer of compost. This helps bury any weed seeds that made it through the tarping, adds organic matter and more healthy microbes. Along with the compost we use organic fertilizers as needed according to soil testing we do in the winter.
At this point it’s ready for planting, either by direct seeding or by transplanting seedlings that we started indoors. Once the plants are growing, we continue to feed them with fish fertilizer (for micronutrients) and compost tea (more microbes!).
I hope that shed some light on our methods here and wasn’t too technical.
And please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just wanna talk soil.
Until next time,