Thursday, May 31, 2012

Building up the soil for October Planting

A few days ago, we plowed winter rye under in a patch of old hayfield.  This ground has been hayed for two decades without a lot of TLC, and for us to ready it for our October garlic planting, we've gotta make up for lost time!

After plowing and discing it last fall, we planted it with winter rye, a cheap and easy way to stop winter soil erosion (came in handy over this windy, dry winter!), add organic material to the soil, and keep out weeds.  Rye secretes a natural herbicide out of it's roots, inhibiting other plants from growing - it really is a farmers best friend.

Because of that natural herbicide, however, we've got to wait two weeks from plowing it under for the 'poison' to dissipate before we plant anything else.  We'll be planting a mix of yellow blossom clover and red clover, two excellent nitrogen fixers to help enrich the soil.

Yellow blossom clover grows tall and fast, perfect for adding extra organic matter into the soil when it gets tilled under.  So we'll approximate how much space we need this october and plant it exclusively with yellow clover.  The problem with yellow clover, though, is that it isn't very hardy - a cold, dry winter like the one we just had would have killed it off.  So for the rest of the garlic patch, we'll lean on a heavier red clover mix, which can take our brutal Minnesota winters and bounce back in spring, fixing even more nitrogen in the soil.

Crop rotation is very important with garlic, especially organically grown.  Viruses and nematodes can live in the soil for years; a five-year rotation helps keep those pests at bay.

I'll publish another post when we plant the clover - hopefully by then all this rainwater will have dried up.  Talk to ya soon!

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