Hot, dry, windy conditions on a freshly harvested field is not a good combination. To keep fertile top soil in place and our subterranean microbial friends happy requires a little management. Water and management. Growing organically by definition requires all ones inputs; fertilizers, mulches, cover crops etc. be certified organic. If organic is proven not practically available then conventional inputs may be considered.
For example; the mulch we use each fall to top dress newly planted garlic comes from southern Alberta because to our knowledge that is where the closest grower of organic straw is located. Expensive, yes. Most certainly not carbon neutral. Oops. The harvested garlic field pictured below with spent straw mulch will be replanted with garlic in 2016.
Here is an instance where conventionally grown straw could be considered. It is almost impractical to ship straw that far but we choose to absorb the cost and ignore the potential diamond or twelve that goes up in diesel exhaust to transport to our farm. Oops.
Now we are faced with how to manage the cover crop for this winter. Back in June our plan was to incorporate the spent fall rye and plant buckwheat for the summer then soon replant fall rye with harry vetch. But organic buckwheat wasn’t available back in June. A more experienced farmer would know that. Now I know. Oops. Of course organic fall rye is available but organic harry vetch is proving elusive. Potential oops.
Our solution this summer has been to merely allow perennial and annual weeds, grass, volunteers and whatever else to establish and preserve the top soil. Maybe oops?
Once turned in this volunteer biomass will introduce some beneficial albeit incalculable nutrients back to those aforementioned microbes. There is nothing wrong with the practice as long as one ensures the growth, especially annuals, is not allowed to set seed. That means more frequent mowing sitting atop the Massey. Oops, there goes another diamond. My bad.