Ahh these last couple of days have been MUCH needed! The past few weeks have been an effort to keep everyone afloat: pigs, turkeys, carrots, potatoes...myself, Jean and workshares! Despite our best efforts, the fields are still wet and sloppy and many times we have been harvesting for pick-up up to our ankles (or shins) in mud. It's the worst, I think, because I feel like I am destroying the soil structure, but also I am starting to worry about some fall crops. Typically I wait until the weather gets cooler to harvest crops for winter storage as the cooler temps make the crops sweeter, but I am starting to wonder if I should just forge ahead before they rot. Alas, we have not been able to harvest potatoes for pick up since the fields have been so wet...hopefully this week....
One of the most important parts of organic farming is planting cover crops. These are seeds (generally grasses) that go into the ground where edible plants are not planted. For example, I have 4 acres of open land that I could potentially plant vegetable crop on. I try to keep at least .5 acres, if not 1 full acre, out of production each year so that that field may "rest". Resting the field allows for the soil microbes and nutrients to reestablish themselves. And typically if I plant a cover crop there, the plant material gets tilled right back into the soil, adding important organic matter and nutrients, rather than harvesting it for our plates. Every cover crop has a different importance to the field. The tall grass behind me is sorghum sudan grass. It is a warm weather crop, I usually plant it just after the 4th of July. It is great at suppressing weeds because it grows so fast and it adds a huge amount of organic matter to the field. Organic Matter is important because it helps to maintain moisture, but still allowing for drainage, and allows a field to hold onto nutrients, rather than having them run off with the water. In the foreground is oats and peas. The peas add nitrogen, essential for plant growth, and the oats just add soil stability for hard core rain, so we don't get soil erosion (aka loss of nice soil and nutrients).
This cover crop is hairy vetch. It is in a mix of peas, vetch and oats (aka PVO, or soil building mix). It was seeded in a fallow (resting) field in the spring. The oats grow fast, and support the peas as they grow. As the summer progresses, the oats and peas die allowing the vetch to take over. Vetch survives the winter and sometimes is hard to kill in the spring, especially if it is a wet spring...next year I will allow the pigs to forage in here, adding additional nitrogen and have them help to kill the vetch. I will not plant vegetable crops in this field until 2015.
In the PYO garden:
Tall white flower on the left: gladiola (harvest when the bottom flower is fully opened)
Tall white flower in the center: Ethiopian gladiola (harvest when the bottom flower is fully opened)
Smaller orange flower: Sunburst orange marigold
Larger orange flower: state fair zinnia mix
This week's bounty: lettuce, arugula, radish/turnip, greenbean, pepper, onion, tat soi/pac choi, edemamae, carrot, melon, corn, herbs...lots of tomatoes....