HOW DO WE FERTILIZE?

 

As an organic grower we need to put a lot of thought into how we maintain the nutrient levels in the soil. If a certain crop is continually grown year after year it will drain the soil of particular nutrients and this will lead to future problems.

We follow tried and true traditions by incorporating crop rotation on our farm. This practice involves growing each crop in a new location every year based on a designed pattern. This allows the soil to effectively take a break and reduces the chances of disease or pest infestations. Also by strategically growing certain plants together they can work in harmony to benefit each other while improving the soil conditions. We call this companion growing.

At our farm we produce our own compost onsite from the waste growth of previous years. This allows us to control the quality and reduces our need for outside inputs. We also grow Nitrogen fixing crops and green manure crops on our farm to enhance soil productivity while adding organic matter to the soil. This is very sustainable and an effective way to make Nitrogen available for the plants without the need for fertilizers.

When we do want to directly enhance the soil we have quite a few options but we choose to stick to a few basic inputs depending on the crop. The one thing you can count on with organic is that we do not use anything synthetic, anything applied on the farm is natural.

These are our common sources for adding nutrients back into the soil:

  • Compost
  • Natural granular fertilizer
  • Seaweed foliar spray
  • Wood shavings
 

HOW DO WE DEAL WITH PESTS?

 

There are many different approaches when it comes to insect invasions. Traditional farming would require one farmer to take a generic poison and apply as needed until the pests have been eliminated. This approach does not work in balance with nature and will cause harm to beneficial insects and may even contaminate the soil. We believe that there are other ways to deal with the challenges that nature brings.

We know that if there is a breakout of a certain pest that must mean there are imbalances in the environment that creates a favorable situation for them to thrive. This is where we take a time sensitive approach and look at all factors. Are we growing the same crop in the same location year after year? Is our soil healthy and properly balanced? Do we have beneficial insects present? These are just some of the questions we ask ourselves in order to make an informed assessment.

When a harmful pest is detected our initial defense is to try and eliminate them on site. If we see a horn worm on the tomatoes we squish it right there, if we see cabbage moths flying around we grab our butterfly nets and we get some exercise catching as many moths as we can! It’s such a simple and effective approach, but it will only solve part of the problem.

If an invasion gets out of control and begins to cause excessive damage to crops we go to our next line of defense, topical sprays. These are the main topical solutions we use, don’t worry they are all safe and approved for organic farming!

  1. Safers Soap – Non chemical – Made from potassium salts of fatty acids
    This is only applied prior to a rainfall when an insect outbreak is out of control
  2. Pyrethrum – All Natural – Derived from Chrysanthemum Flower (we even grow the Pyrethrum flower on our farm)
    This is only applied prior to a rainfall when an insect outbreak is out of control
  3. Propane Flame Weeders - This is a simple and effective way to dramatically reduce the weed population in the beds and around the farm

 

When it comes to weed control we have a few ways to handle them. Typically we try and pull any weeds we see as they grow, but sometimes they get out of control. For example, If thistles get out of control our only option is to quickly hit them with the flame weeder and quickly scorch the outside waxy coating of the weeds which will kill them off or keep them under control. Eliminating weeds from the soil is a process that can take up to decade to resolve and is a constant battle. Once removed the key to keeping the weeds from returning is to maintain a cover crop that protects the soil from being exposed to new seed.

Year after year by improving our soil conditions as well as applying strategic crop rotation and planting regimens we hope to create an ecologically diverse environment that encourages beneficial insects. This in turn will allow us to reduce the need for topical applications and reduce our overall dependence on outside inputs.