Thursday, May 22, 2008

What's New At The Farm? 5/21/08

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.


Anonymous said...

We have a deer problem out west in Oregon so am wondering what suggestions any of you might have to keep them out of the garden area. We've created 4x8 plots with wire fencing around about 12" tall, but cover with mesh net to keep (or try to) the deer out of those plots. They go after the new growth, and tear up half of the asking if there is anything short of shooting the deer to keep them away from our garden. Any tips will help....Thanks.

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

I passed your question to some folks here who have experience dealing with deer in their gardens. Ben Wilcox in our call center had a few suggestions. I hope they're helpful to you!

Here are Ben's notes:

Initial attempts to deter deer browsing with a single strand of electric tape at hip height and a battery charged system had limited success. Very limited. Noticing that the first things eaten after the deer jumped the fence were lettuce and peas, I tried planting a section of the garden to the Oat and Pea mix outside the electric fence each year, rotating the plots to improve soil tilth. Apparently the slight shock of the electric fence reminded the deer that there were delicious young Oats and Peas right behind them, and I had almost no deer browsing on the 4 acres of vegetables within the single wire fence.

As fall approached the temperature dropped, and browsing pressure increased as the deer herd responded to the urge to “lard up” for winter. Covering our fall carrots with floating row covers during the final weeks before harvest succeeded in disguising them from the deer, which had started eating carrot tops and roots at the row ends closest to the woods despite the electric fence.

Johnny’s sells deer repellent 9428 Plantskydd made from dried blood, that is used primarily on woody ornamentals, although it could also be sprayed on areas around the vegetables.

The most important fact regarding deer is that they do not stop eating, regardless of your efforts. If you are successful at protecting your crops, they will be eating somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

As I have recently moved to deer county in eastern NC, I asked some local gardeners how they deal with the native mammels commonly referred to as venison (when out of hunting season). The best way to keep deer out of the the garden is to not plant one. The second best way to keep deer out of the garden is to put a few fence posts around the garden. Then take a piece of strong string and encircle the garden using the fence posts a support. Try to not tie the string to posts. The string should be about two feet from the ground. Tie plastic grocery bags to the string every ten to twenty feet. As the deer step into the string the bags move. This bag movement is seen and heard by the deer and they leave. Sounds crazy, but it really does work.

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

Thank you for that tip - I'm going to share it with a question on our "River Valley Fencing" article.