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Biological growing with cover crops

Here’s an example of what I mean by biological growing methods.

This is a field of asparagus, with wide (8′) spaces between rows. Normally those spaces would grow weeds and have to be cultivated all season. Instead, after asparagus harvest, I broadcast a cover crop of buckwheat between the rows. Along with some leftover vetch, peas, and sweetclover, it is shading out the weeds, conditioning the soil and attracting lots of beneficial insects.

Since this picture was taken, I let the buckwheat go to seed, then mowed it.  It is now regrowing from seed, and will winterkill when temperatures drop this fall.  Very low-maintenance!

I use a variation of this method for most of my widely-spaced crops. In potatoes, which are planted with a 4 1/2′ row spacing, I use buckwheat and cowpeas. Next I’ll be looking for a low-growing interplant for the cantaloupe that doesn’t grow up and shade out the vines.

By |August 11th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Biological growing with cover crops|

Harvesting rain on the farm

Obviously 2012 was a dry year, and a tough year for growers and farmers.  Being a small farm with good groundwater and the ability to drip irrigate, we didn’t suffer as much as dryland farmers did.  But it still made a big impression on me and reignited my interest in farmscaping for passive water harvesting.

 

There’s been a lot of good work done on this, especially in Australia, where they suffer long and extreme droughts compounded by wildfires.  The design disciplines of Permaculture and Keyline design both originated in Australia, and some of the foremost teachers and leaders like Darren Doherty and Geoff Lawton are based there. That’s where I got my basic concepts.

Essentially, I’m trying to slow down, spread out, and soak in the water that falls on the farm.  This is especially important for our big “gully washer” rain events here in Nebraska.  Swales and contour ripping are two techniques to achieve this.

 

Our system is in its very early stages:  I’m looking forward to some thunderstorms this spring to test and refine the layout!

 

-Justin

By |March 11th, 2013|Water harvesting|Comments Off on Harvesting rain on the farm|