Happy International Year of Soils (& get your free sticker!)

Scientific American coverScientific American recently ran an interesting article about the possibility that other planets out there may be “better” than Earth for supporting life. That may be true, but our planet has plenty that should make us proud earthlings. Top among these points of pride is Earth’s fantastic soils, teeming with life and supporting an abundance of terrestrial creatures (including ourselves). This isn’t a competition between Earth and other yet-to-be-discovered planets, but let me just ask: Continue reading

Posted in Soil | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Happy International Year of Soils (& get your free sticker!)

Can garlic planting get any better? Yes.

I think most vegetable farmers will agree that planting garlic is one of the most satisfying farm chores. There’s something about the end of the season also being the beginning of the next. It’s also one of the most common crops for which farmers save their own seed- an act that feels pretty special and empowering.

What could make garlic planting any more satisfying (and profitable)? Continue reading

Posted in Cover Crops, Equipment | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Can garlic planting get any better? Yes.

Peer-reviewed: you can grow no-till spinach after winterkilled forage radish

I love a good story; in fact, we all love a good story. Scientists have shown that narratives hold a sort of “privileged status” in human cognition over logical communication, which is the form that most science writing takes. A good story, they have shown, can stick with people more than data (1). So perhaps a peer-reviewed journal article might not be the best format for getting the message across, but I still want to let people know that our research on no-till spinach after a forage radish cover crop has been peer-reviewed and published (click here to read it!). The important parts (plus pictures) are available on our low-residue winterkilled page.  Continue reading

Posted in Cover Crops, Radish, spinach | Tagged , | Comments Off on Peer-reviewed: you can grow no-till spinach after winterkilled forage radish

Silver buckshot: a cover crop analogy for hunting season

I heard someone on the radio today say “there is no silver bullet, there’s silver buckshot.” The context was completely unrelated to farming, but I liked it and I was immediately reminded of cover cropping, farming in general, and the multi-pronged approach we need to create sustainable production methods. But then I thought: “Is it possible to gain precision (the bullet) and cast a broad net (the buckshot) at the same time?” The mixed metaphors are killing me! Continue reading

Posted in Cover Crops | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Silver buckshot: a cover crop analogy for hunting season

Grazing cover crops, manure concerns, and bringing cover crops to your own dinner table

If you got your cover crops in early, you might be looking at lush, verdant fields now.* I find that this lushness tends to make farmers either want to feed their animals or feed people, especially when it’s a cover crop like turnips or radishes. Ultimately, the purpose of a cover crop is to feed the soil, but feeding animals and people along the way may be compatible with achieving this goal. It just depends on the situation. Continue reading

Posted in Cover Crops | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Grazing cover crops, manure concerns, and bringing cover crops to your own dinner table

When cover crops die

I awoke to very frosty fields this morning, as is expected this time of year in Maine. The basil died long ago, the peppers have been limping along through light frost after light frost until they finally died last night. Now we can really see which crops are the true fall superstars in the field. As the sun finally warms everything, the broccoli looks just as good as it did yesterday. And so do the phacelia, crimson clover, and radish. I want these cover crops to die eventually- just not yet. Continue reading

Posted in Cover Crops, Phacelia, Radish, Rye, Soil temperature, Vetch | Tagged , | Comments Off on When cover crops die

You’ve got options for measuring and adjusting your soil’s pH: part II

Last post, I wrote about measuring your soil’s pH on your own. If you successfully measured pH, congratulations! Now you have to decide what to do with this information. For purposes of this post, I will focus on what to do when the pH is lower (more acidic) than you want it to be. If the pH is perfect for the crops you want to grow, sit back, relax, and wait until next year to measure again. Continue reading

Posted in Nutrient Cycling, Soil, Soil health | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on You’ve got options for measuring and adjusting your soil’s pH: part II