wjfarm

Tessellation and Minimal-Till Mode

In Improvements on October 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm

After three years of building the soil profile on the Farm to ensure the surface soil (about 8-10″ below the initial 2″ of organic litter layer) not only has a healthy amount of organic matter, but also a healthy population of necessary micro-organisms, we have moved to a “minimal-till” mode. This really means that instead of continually weeding our beds and fields, thereby disrupting the stratification of beneficial organisms in the surface soil and litter layer, we allow certain areas in our fields to lie fallow for several months as a part of our crop rotation protocol; we will only till those areas once in the year, and lightly, just prior to planting.

In order to continue to enrich our topsoil, we have developed a practice whereby we  first mow untilled and unweeded areas using the “mulch” setting on the mower (so organic matter remains on the surface instead of being removed), then we smother the remaining stubble with several layers of wet cardboard (a cool spatial-temporal task for our students, akin to assembling a jigsaw puzzle or creating tessellations), finishing off the process with additional compost that will continue to break down over the Fall. We have found that this creates an insulated layer for many beneficial organisms to shelter under and to continue to reproduce, even into Winter, and the resultant biodegraded cardboard and decomposed organic matter has added nutrients and substance to our topsoil- a quick light till prior to planting, and we give our crops an excellent start to their season.

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