We received a little bit of rain this week, but not enough to do any good. It’s getting quite dry and we’ve been irrigating for the past couple of weeks. Mostly the fine seeded crop like carrots, beets and onions but also some transplants, namely flowers and lettuce. The crops are really growing fast with the ample sunshine and the water they’re being given. Field work progresses at a steady pace and we continue to stay ahead of schedule.
We seeded down four acres of organic ground last Friday with Johnny’s Spring Green Manure mix. I’d like to see some rain on it to get it started but won’t go to the expense of irrigating it. Once the peas start to blossom, if the deer leave it alone, we’ll mow it and let the hairy vetch take over. Hairy vetch will add lots of organic matter along with an ample supply of nitrogen for next years crops. We’ve had field 14 in crops for many years; now and it will be good to rest it and let it rejuvenate.
With our decrease in seed production this year, we’ll be able to put more acreage into cover crops. It would be ideal to have enough land available so each year we could cover crop at least one third of our ground. Crop rotation is important to help break weed and disease cycles. Let’s say we have a particular pest in one field this year and next year we plant a cover crop the particular pest won’t have anything to eat. It will either move on or die.
I finally managed to get out into my garden last week and do some much needed planting. Now that I’ve got a fair amount planted how about some rain? My garden is clay on top of ledge. It was for years a pasture for cows, hayfield for a while, a pasture for sheep and an un-mowed hayfield for the past ten years or so. The farmer whom owned it sold it to a developer and he subdivided it. As there were two house lots directly across from where I live, we bought them to prevent close neighbors. So, now with the addition of plenty of materials from my henhouses and leaves I pick up here and there, we have a large garden spot for our summer, fall and winter vegetable needs.
The past two seasons I rototilled the garden but this year decided to plow it. Mistake – perhaps – but plowed it none the less. I managed to pull up some rocks, roots and more clay but was able to plow under a large amount of organic matter from the chicken houses. I am unable to buy large amounts of compost to apply to my garden ( too expensive), but have chosen to use animal manures and cover crops to enrich my soil. The south end of the garden will get sweet clover this year as the soil is compacted and just generally poorer than the rest of the plot.
Using cover crops will enrich the soil and break up hardpan naturally. No chisel plowing, rototilling or other field work needs to happen other than preparing a good seed bed for the greenmanure to get established in. Once planted and growing I need only to mow it a couple of times per season to help it build a strong root system. Next year I’ll till it in before it gets too much growth on it in the spring. Here at JSS I would allow it to bloom then till it in, but at home I don’t have the necessary equipment and rely heavily on my walk behind tiller for crop incorporation.
Until next week, I’ll be in the garden.