Monday, July 19, 2010

Lessons learned


       Let me preface this piece by saying that farming is the hardest work I have ever done.  I love it, and it is often very rewarding.  However, it is physically and mentally demanding, and coupled with nature's constant shifts and changes it makes for an endless struggle to achieve the balance of sun, wind, water, and timing - the ultimate moving target.  Time itself is a big part of farming.  Seemingly little things over time become big problems for which there is no quick fix, and other things require extreme patience.  It takes years for soil to develop into fertile matter, so we are constantly adding to the soil through minerals, compost, organic fertilizer, and amendments. 

     My tomatoes have had their roughest year yet.  I planted them in a new field which has the poorest soil out of the three fields.  I added compost and lime to the field, but I also should have added soft rock phosphate, greensand, and a good organic fertilizer.  This fall I will be adding these along with planting a cover crop, which adds organic matter to the soil while preventing weed growth.
     In years past I have used hay for mulching and added organic matter to the soil as the hay breaks down.  The downside of hay is that it contains lots of seeds, which grow vigorously and infiltrate and dominate the garden beds.  So this year weeds have grown out of control, and the watermelons, squash, and beans are struggling.   This season we are trying a biodegradable paper mulch that comes in a big roll that you stretch across your garden bed and plant right into.  After your crops are done for the season, you just till it in the remaining mulch.  So after a couple of years of using it you will have less weeds.
     Mistakes made in the past years can come back to haunt you, unless you maintain consistent attention to each of the moving parts that make up a successful farming operation.  It is a test of patience and one's ability to multi-task successfully.  Sometimes I can keep the balance, and other times I end up learning lessons the hard way.  Either way, with each season the farm develops and the soil gets better and better. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I simply wanted to say THANK YOU. Thank you for what you are doing. I am eternally grateful for all of you who are working so hard and so long to give us real food.

Sandra Norman

Farmer boy said...

Sandra,
Thank you for your comment! It means a lot to me.

Chris

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