Spring is just around the corner, and here on the Farm we are preparing our beds out in the field so that we can hit the ground running with crops once the weather warms.
Most organic and conventional farms till their soil in the Spring and Fall, mechanically turning the soil to mix in crop residues and weeds into the soil. Not only is this an effective weed control technique, but it brings carbon to the soil surface where fungi and bacteria feed on the carbon and release nutrients that help newly planted crops grow. However, the surface-level carbon also combines with the atmospheric oxygen, forming greenhouse gases and thereby contributing o climate change. Tilling also makes soil more vulnerable to weed seeds, and it destroys the structure of soil layers, which negatively impacts the delicate ecology of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other organisms in the soil. Since Rural Studio Farm’s philosophy is rooted in moving toward sustainable systems and regenerative agriculture, we strictly practice a no-till system. This means that we must prepare the soil differently for the Spring.
This process began back in the Fall when we cleared out the old crop residue and sowed cover crops that would overwinter in the field.
Cover crops help build healthy soil and protect against erosion during the long rainy winter. Once students returned in January, we spread large silage tarps over the cover crops to begin to break them down without needing to turn them over with the tiller. Next, we used a tool called a broadfork, which has long tines that push deep into the soil and open it up for water, air, and organic matter to reach deeper down, allowing for root systems to develop more easily.
After broadforking, we added pine bark mulch and other soil amendments to the bed before tarping it again. The final step was to smooth out the soil surface and then transplant out the new seedlings.
While the bed preparations have been going on in the field, we have been busy in the seed house starting all sorts of new seedlings: lettuces, spinach, beets, kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, chard, onions, leeks, shallots, herbs, fennel, celery, turnips, mustard, and more.
So stay tuned for when the soil warms up and we can begin moving the new crops outside!