Wow, March?! Already?!
Daylight hours began to lengthen after the vernal equinox. There is a different feeling to the air with the birds returning with their melodious greetings.
Although this March was spent “getting things ready” for full-on “farming mode” in April and May, I look forward to the day when we have a reliable high tunnel where we can begin to plant spring greens this early in the season without the concern of the early spring freeze/thaw rollercoaster.
Let’s dive into what’s happening on the farm in March!
During the month of March, seed starting really kicks into high gear. I spent the month using our soil blocks to germinate greens, like kale and sorrel, as well as the mini soil block to start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants on our heat mats. Haven’t heard of soil blocks? Check out this reel to understand why we use them on our farm.
I also started several perennial and annual medical herbs like comfrey, blue vervain, ashwagandha, and angelica. I’m dreaming of building a “fruit forest garden” around the 50+ year old apple trees on our farm, adding new fruit bushes/trees to the area over the next few years alongside a multitude of pollinator and rhizosphere perennials.
I first learned about forest gardens in Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: Practical application for the Garden, Fruits & Agriculture in 2013 when I was starting to look at alternative ways of growing food in a way that connected more with the cycles and benefits of nature (vs. conventional farming). I recommend this book if you are new to permaculture concepts as it is especially beneficial for household gardens and community gardens.
I have been following Cornell’s Small Farms Program and their Reduced Tillage in Vegetables project’s tests of silage tarp usage in no-till agriculture efforts all last year. Overall the results were very successful and their study brings lots of new information to light in one source.
This year, I decided to give silage tarps a try on our farm. Although most studies suggest using a large tarp and covering the whole area (permanent beds and walkways), I am experimenting with a variation.
Many, though not all, of our walkways are currently covered with cover crops, like clover and hairy vetch that bring pollinators and provide healthy soil in the areas surrounding the permanent beds. The cover crops also make a healthy mulch when cut and incorporated into the beds. I don’t want to get rid of those benefits on our farm.
Another reason I am experimenting with our system is honestly about convenience. As a woman of relatively small stature, I was not about to drag a 25+ silage tarp around the farm on my own. I’m honestly just not that strong.
So we’ve cut the tarp to cover specifically cover the 3 foot width and length of our beds. This method is also allowing us to only cover the beds that are in the best spot currently for planting in the wet spring weather.
I’m really happy with the results so far, but I’ll write a full post on the results later this season.
If you haven’t gathered from my other post in February, I find a part of farming is all about experimenting. Even when I’ve followed someone else’s directions to a “T”, I’ve not had the same results. I am sure almost anyone can relate to this in some fashion or another.
For instance, I’ve tried grafting cuttings from our ancient and hollow 100+ year old apple trees onto our robust 50 year old tree over the past several springs. Never has it worked. My dad even tried one year.
I read about another way to potentially propagate apple trees from tree cuttings by soaking in water and then setting them into compost with rooting hormone. So here we are, with cuttings trying to see if this time it will work differently.
The 100 year old apple trees are still producing, but honestly it’s through grace only – both tree trunks are hollow and tend to not produce much fruit during dry, hot summers. We are enjoying them on borrowed time and I’d like to be able to save these two unique varieties that have been on the land years before my family became its steward.
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