We have been busy these past few weeks getting our field in order. It’s a late, wet spring season so far which has the farm looking like Ireland - green and healthy. The rain is a blessing, but when we do get away from the storm clouds, we fully take advantage of the sunshine and work until the job is done!
Our seeds are germinating, our transplants are healthy and the soil in the field is warming up! In our past post, John and I discussed productive soil and below are some highlights of this method in action and how we work the field, prepping for planting!
We mowed down last year’s corn fodder, past crops and weeds, which is dead vegetation and no longer flourishing.
There’s a complex relationship between the soil surface and the underlying microorganisms. By not plowing last season’s crops into the ground or tilling the soil, we preserve the organic matter – bacteria, fungi, and earthworms – which are vital for healthy crops.
We are able to use broken down compost from our muck rows on top of the field, which will help prep the ground for this season and next season. A natural fertilizer instead of chemical application, which is perfect for the size of this operation.
We were able to come up with 250-300 bales of hay/straw for the field cover. In the end, it turned out to be just enough, thankfully! John and I made two different trips to get it all - loaded and transported. Helluva workout that's for sure.
Applying a thick layer of shredded hay/straw, up to 1.5’ deep helps keep weeds from sprouting. If weeds do grow, which they will - it'll be easier for me to manage. With planting, the mulch will be pulled back to dig a hole and get the transplant or seed situated. Then simply surround the budding plant with the hay/straw. This is also very beneficial for keeping the soil wet, it greatly reduces the amount of watering needed in the summer heat.
After shredding all of the hay bales out onto the field, John went off to work on his to-do list and I put in some good time Saturday and all day Sunday with a rake and pitchfork getting the layers even. My blistered/bleeding hands (even with gloves on!) needed some help, thankfully I'm getting a lot better with the smaller loader tractor - it definitely helped move piles quicker.
Over time, these mulch layers added will help loosen up the soil. The soil formed by the addition of so much organic matter will be full of our friendly earthworms and teeming with healthy microbes that make nutrients available for our plants.
In summary, benefits of no-till, organic gardening…
Establishes and maintains healthy, well balanced soil
Eliminates dependency on chemicals
Promotes natural aeration and drainage
Reduces the need to weed
Saves time, energy and resources
Helps soil retain carbon
Helps reduce soil erosion