A fertile soil is the goal. High organic matter and readily available macro and micro-nutrients. The fertility is provided by a complex, viable soil biology. A soil guru explained that there is much more going on (i.e. microbial life) at the surface of the soil and a few inches below it than above it. I fall in with the crowd that identifies with Eliot Coleman and the work to create a viable soil. The constant toil to improve. Even a 1% effort has a cumulative impact.
I have worked a variety of soil types and in different states of biologic activity. The most challenging was a compacted loam with low biological activity, imbalanced nutrients and very low organic matter. The effort to begin restoration of the soil, as expected, yielded few immediate results. The organic matter was below 2%. Using an acre furrow slice weight of 2, 000,000lbs. that would be 40,000lbs. existing organic matter per acre. Raising it to recommended 5% levels for vegetable crop production required 60,000lbs/acre. 30 tons is a lot to add, not to mention the cost. So the efforts focused on the cumulative 1%'s. Compost, cover crops, mulches.... Eventually the the soil began to show some early signs of returning to fertility. The scientists look at the numbers and calculate...we farmers look at the what we need and what is sustainable and begin. Even if it is just a 1% impact.
This season has presented challenging weather. A fertile soil and good practices should permit a farmer to produce acceptable vegetables under these conditions. At Tiller's International I have enjoyed working in a soil that has adequate fertility, organic matter and soil biology. Production has exceeded expectations. I have happy customers and feel a sense of satisfaction in dealing with challenging conditions. The toil for better soil continues. To sustain production and improve the farm will be a constant effort.
This past week I worked a new section of the field. Cleared the cover crop, spread composted horse manure, added a smidgen of lime, and sowed a late crop of buckwheat. I really like the impact buckwheat has on the soil. My understanding is that the secretions from the roots boosts soil microbes. In the past the crops that followed the buckwheat always did well. Even if it is just 1%, the cumulative impact will benefit the farm!
--The harvest this past week included a variety of wonders. Late summer radishes, terrific tomatoes, bountiful basil, crunchy carrots, stupendous baby squash...We like to enjoy these great foods as unaltered as possible. So they are prepped, artfully placed on a platter and topped with a basil pesto. Thanks to Deborah Madison for the inspiration in her Local Harvest cookbook!