I made a podcast. It’s the podcast I wish existed when I started farming and learning about soil. I have tried to keep the episodes short and sweet, covering the basics while also delving into some pretty cutting edge science- some of which wasn’t around when I was first learning about soil!
The first four episodes are all about soil organic matter. I started with this topic because people are talking a lot about “soil health” these days, and soil organic matter is at the core of soil health (no matter how you define it).
You can listen here, download for later, and get the full transcripts if you’re so inclined. I’ll keep posting as I finish more episodes. Please remember, if you do listen, to give me some feedback (password “soil”)! We got a grant to make these, so it’s really important for us to know if you find them useful (or not). Also, happy birthday (today!) to my mom, and many thanks to her for reading and listening to so many drafts.
Full transcript (pdf) of Episode 1: What does organic matter do for your soil?
Full transcript (pdf) of Episode 2: Where does soil organic matter come from?
Full transcript (pdf) of Episode 3: What is soil organic matter, really?
Full transcript (pdf) of Episode 4: How does soil organic matter stick around?
Tarps were removed on July 7 and cabbages were transplanted soon after.
When I last wrote in June, I was really excited about how quickly the clear tarps were killing cover crops and weeds. I even proclaimed “the answer is clear: solarization is outperforming occultation.” Now that the tarps have been off and the cabbage has been in the ground for over six weeks, things have changed. I wanted to give an update, even though this is still preliminary, because the differences between treatments in terms of weed suppression are now so pronounced.
The good news first: the cabbages and weed suppression are looking really good where there were black tarps.
No-till transplanted Farao (Johnny’s) cabbage in a rye-vetch mulch where weeds were suppressed using a black tarp prior to transplanting.
UPDATE 8/24/16: Please see follow-up post on this experiment.
Initially, the title of this post was “The answer is clear: solarization is outperforming occultation for killing cover crops.” At the time I originally wrote it, clear tarps were killing cover crops so fast it was amazing. However, things change. In the end, the black tarps ended up suppressing weeds better than clear. Please read the follow-up post for the full story.
I’ve got some data and I’ve got some pictures. Both are really interesting. If you missed the first post on this project, check it out here. So far, clear tarps appear to be killing cover crops and weeds quickly and effectively- more effectively than black tarps.
Carolyn checks out the difference between clear plastic (bottom) and black plastic (top) after two weeks of the tarp treatments.
It’s been so long! I apologize for my hiatus from this blog. I’m going to skip the chit chat and get right to the topic though: TARPS.
River the dog inspects the tarp at Fat Peach Farm in NH. Photo: Jennifer Wilhelm
I know a lot of small-scale growers have been using tarps as a critical component of weed control in their systems and to facilitate minimum tillage organic production. Some folks call this practice “occultation.” There’s a bit of information online, including some great blog posts from Bare Mountain Farm in Oregon and Spring Forth Farm in North Carolina. A reader also alerted me to some research in Quebec where tarps were applied to cover crops in late fall and then a no-till broccoli crop was transplanted in June. Continue reading
In my narrow-minded search for fall-planted, low-residue, winterkilled cover crops, I tried growing phacelia a few times to suit this purpose. It did ok, but I found that with good fall growth, it really isn’t low-residue in spring. More on that later. What I want to share here is that once I opened up my eyes a little (and was no longer being paid to look for low-residue, winterkilled cover crops), I finally discovered what the Europeans have known for a long time: phacelia is incredible as a spring-planted cover crop. Continue reading
Selecting, seeding, and managing cover crop mixtures is the topic of a new factsheet from eOrganic written by our colleagues at Penn State. I had a chance to talk with Charlie White recently about their project and I’ll be sharing his thoughts on an episode of the podcast later this year. If you want the full run-down of their work, however, this factsheet is a must-read. Continue reading
Sometimes, I feel like erosion is a big elephant in the room. It happens. It feels unlucky, it feels bad, and sometimes it feels inevitable. It is also still one of the biggest threats to long-term productivity and soil health that we face today, especially as the weather gets more erratic. Not talking about it isn’t going to make it go away. Soil erosion is not inevitable, nor is it just about luck. With certain management strategies, soil erosion can be dramatically reduced. Continue reading