Thursday, April 14, 2011

Flame Weeding and Cover Cropping

As the nice weather continues, our work continues to pick up. From potting up tomatoes in the greenhouse, to planting and mulching more broccoli, to equipment maintenance. The order of the day yesterday though was cover cropping.

We have experienced the many benefits of cover cropping over the past several years and have worked up a system that seems to work well for our farm. Each spring we spread a mix of chickling vetch and oats on the beds that will be planted with our fall crops. The beds are cultivated to eliminate (most all) weeds, the seed is broadcast, the tractor harrows them in, we wait for rain to help them germinate, and then watch them grow into a mass of green organic matter.

Sometime in late June we will spade this "green manure" in and let it decompose for a couple weeks. Soon after we cultivate to get any small weeds that want to come up, and then plant our fall crops. The feel and smell of the soil at this point is just something you have to experience. It is alive and fully cycling nutrients, creating the conditions we organic farmers work for.

Below is a video of Lucas broadcasting the seed. A clearer version is on YouTube.

The seed after broadcast

Getting ready to harrow

The fun really began though when, for the first time in farm history we put our flame weeder to work. After buying a new part this week, we got the bugger working, taking on a project we had planned on tackling for many years, the asparagus beds.

In our last post we talked about the problems with these beds and our plans to abandon them when the new patch kicks in. But in the meantime we hope to harvest some quantity of asparagus from the old bed.

The video and photo speak for themselves. What isn't shown is the taste treats we enjoyed as a part of this exercise. The asparagus has already come up and, while we harvested what we saw, when we started burning we could see there were still spears coming out of the ground.

Well the fire served to do nothing more than char those spears, allowing us to harvest grilled asparagus! That's why we love this job.

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