Today we took a walk around the CSA field to do some plotting out and to check on the progress of the green manure. Plotting on a project of this scale is mind boggling, and after a few frosty hours pacing up and down, trying to remember our trigonometry we achieved 30 stakes stuck in the ground – about as accurately as a spoonful of peas launched across a dining table. With rapidly expiring daylight and soggy, frozen feet we decided to come back to the task at a later date. The green manure on the other hand is doing very nicely, so I’ll tell you all about that:
Agriculture has some monumental scale issues, too vast for this little post to go into, but they all stem from the first intervention – plowing! To get around this farms across the world are adopting a “NO TILL” approach. The problem then becomes one of weeds on the surface, and to “fix” this farmers are using glyphosate herbicides AKA Monsanto’s infamous Round-Up. This is derived from formaldehyde, which is pretty toxic stuff, and as well as killing the weeds (if they’re not resistant) it also kills vast numbers of creatures within the soil food web, drawing us once again into a cycle of interventions, chemicals, and further issues. A few pioneers, including Stanford Hall, are developing new ways, including the use of direct sown green manure or cover crop blends to cultivate the land for us.
The blend we are using on the CSA field is made up of fast growing, hardy annuals, including rye, mustard, vetch and clover. The seed has been drilled directly through the existing pasture. The aim being to smother the perennial grasses and weeds with plants that will grow strongly through Autumn and Spring, before being cut prior to going to seed themselves. This should leave us with a vastly weaker cover of plants underneath, huge amounts of compostable materials and soil structure and nutrient that has been created by roots and natural soil life, rather than machinery and chemicals.
In late Spring it will be time to start planting out our vegetable crops for the season, and further preparation will depend upon what kind of crop it is. Some areas will use mulches and biodegradable membranes, while others will use vigorous crops that block out light. Either way, what we’ll end up with is soil that is free from herbicide contamination, teaming with soil life and well on its way to natural cultivation. Here’s to a new agriculture!