wjfarm

Posts Tagged ‘compost’

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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The Third Gender

In Creatures on May 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

worm farm

“without the work of this humble creature who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible” (Charles Darwin)

Eisenia fetida, known under various common names such as redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, tiger worm, and red wiggler, is a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material. These worms thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure. At The Farm at Walker Jones we raise these worms to produce vermicasts which is the end-process of the breakdown of organic matter by these worms which acts as a super fertiliser. We either add the vermicompost directly to our crop rows, or use it as our potting soil for germinating our seedlings.

As with other earthworm species, Eisenia fetida is hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female sexual organs however two worms are still required for reproduction. The two worms join clitellums, the large orangeish bands which contain the worms’ reproductive organs, and which are only visible during the reproduction process. The two worms exchange sperm. Both worms then secrete cocoons which contain several eggs each. These cocoons are lemon-shaped and are pale yellow at first, becoming more brownish as the worms inside become mature. It takes about two weeks for the up to 12 young to emerge.