Monday, July 30, 2012

News from Mountain View Farm

Hi Folks,

August marks the beginning of our cover cropping season. As land comes out of vegetable production we plant a cover crop as soon as possible. Cover crops are a crucial part of our soil health and fertility practices here at the farm. We use a variety of different cover crops: oats, peas, vetch, clover, sudan grass, and winter rye. Vetch, clover and peas are legumes that fix nitrogen in the soil. These legumes contain symbiotic bacteria called Rhizobia within nodules in their root systems, producing nitrogen compounds that help the plant to grow and compete with other plants. These Rhizobia require a plant host and cannot independently fix nitrogen. So we provide the host in the form of cover crops. When the plant dies, the fixed nitrogen is released, making it available to other plants; this helps to fertilize the soil. Given the proper conditions, this nitrogen can remain available in the soil for a few years. Rye is beneficial because it soaks up any excess nutrients in the soil. When we plow it under in the Spring of next year, all of those nutrients will become available to our plants. A few years ago, we started growing our own rye seed. We let a section of our Rye to go to seed, and found the friend of a friend who had a combine to cut it down for us in exchange for some seed. We ended up with thousands of pounds of rye seed and the greenest rye we can remember! This week a friend will combine one of our rye fields in Northampton and we hope to have 20,000 pounds of rye seed to begin our cover cropping here at the farm......

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