As the beginning of September fast approaches, we are busy assessing how the many changes we’ve implemented on the farm this season have turned out. This of course leads to examining what we need to fix, refine, let go of, redouble, or continue with.
So many times I have said to Jen and the crew that we are basically set up and don’t need to make any more major investments. This statement is usually followed in short order by a spurt of excited planning for the next “big thing”.
Well this year I’m not even pretending to be satisfied with how things are set up. But instead of looking to add another level of complexity to our production systems, I’m all excited about simplifying our systems. Predictably, Jen, Marshall and the others on the crew are in full support of this plan.
The production systems I’m talking about are defined mostly by the spacing of crops to fit different tractors and other equipment.
As of now, our three main systems are:
- Deeply composted permanent raised beds on sixty inch centres, cultivated mostly with hand tools. Instead of traditional plowing, spent crops are smothered with silage tarps and young weeds are burned with a propane flame weeder. This system is excellent for quick growing crops like spinach, salad mix, cilantro, carrots and green onions.
- Bio-degradable, non GMO corn starch based plastic mulch, with clover cover crops in the paths. This system builds the most soil organic matter, uses the least water and the most purchased materials. This system almost eliminates weeding labour and is ideal for long season crops like peppers, squash, eggplants, or cabbages.
- Single rows planted 30 inches apart, mechanically cultivated with a home-made tractor that is still in development. If this system was perfected, I think it has the potential to be the most labour efficient, but is now the least.
Ok, so can you guess which system is on its way out? Yup, #3, my pet project for the last several years, is being let go. The neat thing is that I’m quite happy to move on.
We will be shifting all of the crops we currently transplant in system #3 into the Bio plastic mulch. We are also making one of our best fields, “P1” into 85 more permanent raised beds. This will allow room to take on the direct seeded crops like storage carrots and parsnips that used to go in the wide rows of #3.
This change should increase our production capacity, without using more land, reduce the hours we put on the tractors, and most importantly, simplify our farm.
In this new era of simplification, I hope that we are able to do some basic things better, such as crop rotation. Last winter, as we were planning our production for this year, we realized that we had not fit in our eggplant and outdoor peppers. As a bit of an afterthought, we tucked them into the middle field, which is where we have our mobile hoop houses. These hoop houses are pack full of tomatoes and peppers every summer, year after year.
Eggplants are very susceptible to soil borne fungi that can build up where tomatoes grow… Yes, our precious eggplants are now seriously sick. They started out looking great and then suddenly stopped setting fruit and now look quite bedraggled! The peppers are not as bad, but certainly were affected.
These two crops are some of my favourites, so if you are keenly missing them, please know that I’m suffering the loss with you!