Author Topic: any farmers here?  (Read 4066 times)

mohawkbrah

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any farmers here?
« on: September 19, 2015, 05:14:42 AM »
Been reading up on farming techniques for the past year now. Im about to put my method to practice and im wondering if you think it's fool hardy.

I plan on eliminating the usage of purchased herbicide's, pesticdes and fertilizers. Any MMM farmers dream im sure to eliminate overhead costs XD

My plan is to incorporate usage of a no till cover crop system to replenish nitrogen into the soil while also suppressing weeds.

so at the moment as my test to measure effectiveness im growing in a small veggie bed in my garden like this

Over winter cover crop : Vetch and Rye grass
cut this down in april - early may when it begins to flower and let it decompose for 2 weeks and don't till it in so i don't damage the soil and also get a mulch to suppress weeds.
short season crop : carrots
Summer-fall cover crop that kills during winter : undecided yet
Long season maincrop : undecided

so my plan is to pretty  much plant a cover crop between every maincrop to try and keep the soil well fed and healthy.


any input is welcome!

Kriegsspiel

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2015, 07:23:28 AM »
I've been reading Joel Salatin's books that goblinchief mentioned, and I think if I were to do any kind of agriculture, it would be his kind. It seems like livestock would be a more profitable venture than crops.

Rightflyer

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2015, 07:30:17 AM »
What size field are you working?

Buy a round bale of straw (5x4 will be enough). Costs about $50 in Canada. Not sure what the cost would be in the UK.

Mulch the garden with the straw heavily...6-8 inches.

Move the straw aside in the areas you want to plant.

The straw will break down over 2-3 years, adding nitrogen and compost to the soil.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2015, 07:35:00 AM by Rightflyer »

worms

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2015, 07:56:52 AM »
Never seen min till carrots!  Not sure how you would harvest that.  I would include some sheep in your rotation.

gaja

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2015, 08:12:12 AM »
Isn't this what permaculture is all about?

mohawkbrah

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2015, 09:23:09 AM »
Isn't this what permaculture is all about?

close, permaculture is about letting nature doing all the work. i would still be intensively farming but letting nature do 50% of the work ;)

Rezdent

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2015, 09:39:00 AM »
Permaculture is more focused on perennials whereas the OP apears to be referring to Biodynamic methods.

John Jeavons has been doing extensive work in this area for years.
I have his book "How to Grow More Vegetables: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You ... (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains,)".

It is very good.  IIRC, at the time I read his book, he had not yet found any way to sustainably grow crops indefinitely using zero outside inputs - but he had gotten them down to a very small amount.

Link to his book:http://www.amazon.com/Grow-More-Vegetables-Eighth-Edition/dp/160774189X

I've found that your starting soil structure is key.
I easily switched to Biodynamic when I lived in a Sandy loam, and the results were amazing.
If your soil isn't ideal, I'd recommend;
     a first year conversion for getting it in good shape.
    Daikon radishes to continue loosening the deeper soil. (Bonus, you can score some food with this cover crop)
    Possibly allowing the Vetch and other covers to bloom and reseed, but this depends on your climate, you don't want them to be invasive.

Rural

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2015, 05:44:30 PM »
Organic Gardening magazine was actually Organic Farming and Gardening until the late 60s - those old issues are a good read if you can lay hands on them. I have most in hard copy, but I think they're now available electronically. Lots of good info there.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2015, 06:44:09 PM »
I own a postage stamp lot right now but agronomy is a hobby of mine. Your OP is far too vague for proper advice.

I googled Herefordshire. Maritime climate, with highs typically below 30 and lows about -15 at most (USDA Zone 7).

This allows you to grow a lot of different crops except the true sub-tropical and tropicals, though with sufficient microclimate tweaking even those might find a home. Heat lovers will require a little TLC to mature in the late summer (tunnels, black plastic mulch, etc).

What soil type? Done a basic soil test? What is it deficient in? In a maritime climate it WILL be leached of many things, you can guarantee it.

There's no such thing as zero input even if everything you grow is for personal consumption and you compost 100% of your wastes. Nutrients are leached out, boiled off, rendered into an unavailable mineral form, etc. You can reach very low inputs but you will need inputs.

Long-term sustainability more or less requires animal recycling of nutrients.

What do you want to grow? Is this homestead? Is this for market?

I can give advice or steer you to good resources with more specifics.

mohawkbrah

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2015, 01:07:20 AM »
I own a postage stamp lot right now but agronomy is a hobby of mine. Your OP is far too vague for proper advice.

I googled Herefordshire. Maritime climate, with highs typically below 30 and lows about -15 at most (USDA Zone 7).

This allows you to grow a lot of different crops except the true sub-tropical and tropicals, though with sufficient microclimate tweaking even those might find a home. Heat lovers will require a little TLC to mature in the late summer (tunnels, black plastic mulch, etc).

What soil type? Done a basic soil test? What is it deficient in? In a maritime climate it WILL be leached of many things, you can guarantee it.

There's no such thing as zero input even if everything you grow is for personal consumption and you compost 100% of your wastes. Nutrients are leached out, boiled off, rendered into an unavailable mineral form, etc. You can reach very low inputs but you will need inputs.

Long-term sustainability more or less requires animal recycling of nutrients.

What do you want to grow? Is this homestead? Is this for market?

I can give advice or steer you to good resources with more specifics.

im only growing in my back garden at the moment so i haven't done any soil testing. Ideally i want to eventually move to an acre of land with a house on it and homestead.

Rural

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2015, 03:11:46 AM »
With just an acre in the plans, Mother Earth News will be more useful than those old Organic Gardening and Farming I mentioned above. The more modern Organic Gardenting magazine may be good, too.


Yes on the animal inputs - you might think chickens.


http://www.motherearthnews.com

Thegoblinchief

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2015, 02:26:29 PM »
Ducks would probably be even better in the wet climate.

If you haven't already read Carol Deppe's stuff, she'll be an excellent resource for you as your climates are damn near identical.

I wouldn't worry too much if you can't get your timing down on cover crops with such a small scale. If you do them, however, make sure to get the appropriate inoculants or the N-fixing won't happen. Compost or mulch materials are usually easy to source from outside if need be to add organic matter/humus faster.

Join the "planting/growing your own" challenge in the gauntlet subforum. Lots of smart folks active there.

Erica's website at NWEdible.com is also right up your climate's alley.

The biggest challenge is learning what varieties work best, at what time, and with what extra support (if needed) for your climate and particular site. A lot of that can only be learned over the years. Good luck!

backyardfeast

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2015, 09:51:31 PM »
OP, given your scale and location, you might find Charles Dowding's work on no-till gardening useful?  He seems to keep things nice and simple for beginners. :)

The cover crop rotation you're describing will certainly add organic matter to the soil and improve soil structure.  However, I know I'm not alone in finding that rye/vetch can be a pain to get rid of (tenacious roots!) without a rototiller!  Especially if you're using raised beds on a small scale.  In a backyard garden, mulch (ie pre-cut grasses similar to rye!) can be really useful and effective.  Mulch is almost prohibitively expensive on a farm-scale, hence the cover crops so often recommended.  But in a backyard setting, mulch is a miracle.  Do you already have some garden beds set up?  Google sheet-mulching or lasagne-gardening; even for established beds this can be really useful to improve the soil.

It will be important for you to find out from local folks what kinds of amendments gardens usually need in your area.  For instance, in the PNW, where I am, steady winter rains mean soils do leach out calcium and magnesium, and applying lime each year is important; no matter how much we complete our recycling of nutrients via compost etc in our gardens, we will likely always need an application of lime (or wood ash, as a more likely substitute).  Your area might be more alkaline, though?

Animals can be extremely useful to build soil fertility.  We ended up with the ever-popular chicken coop.  So here's what I do, with great success.  I "import" hay, grown locally (probably with fertilizers, but without herbicides) when it's too old for animal feed (so is a cheap, waste product).  I use the hay in my chicken coop, and it gets well manured.  I then compost it with all of our kitchen scraps and other garden waste, and put it back on the garden.  In the fall/winter, I lime my property lightly.  When I plant, I do add some organic fertilizer: a simple blend of alfalfa meal, lime, kelp meal, and bone meal.  This is a slow-release fertilizer that provides a broad range of nutrients.  I haven't done a soil test, and I should; after 5 years, veggies still grow really well, but it's possible I'm providing more nutrients than necessary.

In the fall, as in your climate, we still have a lot growing, which can also make planting cover crops a pain.  My tomatoes stay reasonably productive until after a hard frost, which here is in late October/early November, which is really too late to plant rye effectively.  So I focus instead on protecting the soil from the winter rains.  I generally either mulch with some of the chicken bedding (if it will be 6 months before I harvest anything from that bed), or leave a protective layer of garden waste in the bed.  This could be all the tomato vines that are simply cut up and left on the bed, etc.  During our hot, dry summers, I buy a bale or two of straw and mulch over dripline to keep the soil moisture in.  So in many beds, I simply chop up the plants and leave them on top of the straw.  All of this will be broken down very nicely come spring, and then I add compost, a little manure from another farm, and a bit of the fertilizer when planting.  Overwintered crops like garlic, and perennials, get a compost layer in early spring as well.  So far everything thrives.

Sometimes thinking about your crop rotation AS a cover crop can be useful.  So, plant peas (as a nitrogen-builder that also gets you edibles) as your short, early season crop (I plant in late Feb for a harvest in June in a similar climate).  Instead of pulling these out in July, just chop them down and leave them as mulch, and then transplant in something like a fall brassica that will grow from July to be harvested through the winter.  In the spring, when these have been harvested, add compost and a crop that can be planted or transplanted in April (lettuce, potatoes?).  Or you could then plant another nitrogen crop, like beans.  Or, in March/April you could plant a quick cover crop like buckwheat, which could be cut down in late June when you're ready to plant some warm season crops like cucumbers, or transplant your tomatoes, or start a fall greens or root veg bed.  The problem with intensive gardening (which is extremely productive!) is often that all of our beds are full most of the time, and it's tough to sacrifice the space for just a cover crop.  This is climate dependent to some extent, I guess, but you should (as I can) be able to grow a really long fall/winter crop, rather than getting frozen out for a few months.

I wouldn't say I'm at a point of no inputs, and I'm not sure that that's possible.  But it is possible to stick to organic (as opposed to inorganic) ways to feed the soil and the plants, keep things simple and not expensive, and to have a thriving homestead garden.  Good luck to you!

worms

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2015, 12:06:11 AM »
Remember that Hereford is further north than Vancouver (on a par with Bella Coola) and that makes a difference to growing season and the ability to do spring or fall catch or cover crops.  I'm five degrees north of Hereford and even with cloches over raised beds, growing season is a limiting factor.

There are good reasons that Hereford produced a world famous cattle breed, rather than world famous crop varieties!

MrsPete

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Re: any farmers here?
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2015, 08:59:43 PM »
i would still be intensively farming but letting nature do 50% of the work ;)
Having grown up on a farm, I assure you nature will not do 50% of the work that you want done.  Oh, nature'll do stuff, but it won't be the stuff you want.  And sprays and pesticides were invented by people who were tired of pulling worms out of squash plants with crochet hooks and cutting off the bad side of tomatoes. 

If you want to grow a small vegetable garden for family consumption, look into the Square Foot Gardening or The Victory Garden.  Aimed at small plots, these books tell you how to prepare the soil so you can grow a succession of crops.  The downside is that the initial soil prep won't be cheap -- nor will it last more than a couple years before you need to spend on it again. 

If you want to start with something EASY, start with fruit trees and bushes.  A dwarf apple tree and a couple blueberry bushes are easy to keep alive and will give you a good yield with little effort on your part.