Mike Lindsay got into the field with a tractor the following Thursday, September 23rd. Anticipating a big storm, he raced the raindrops to get the whole field tilled so our cover cropping would not be delayed on the weekend. (CLICK on any photo for enlargement)
Members had previously rolled up all the hoses from the field to clear the way for the tractor. Here we've attached them to the fence to avoid entanglement by weed growth over winter. Red maples line the Hermitage driveway behind.
The FSC thought Mike L was going to use a brushcutter first to break down the old standing stalks of pea (and some rye) that were laying flat in the field. On another occasion Mike had found it difficult to till the field with long stringy stalks getting caught up in the blades. But this time he made the call in the field to proceed with tilling only, saving on time and fossil fuel use. The old stalks were not a problem, but he avoided cutting any of the long grass along the edge of the field, and that will have to be dealt with at a later date by hand or sheet mulch. It doesn't affect our cover cropping but can creep into the field as competitive growth.. And now there are still big chunks of sod in the rest of the field that might have benefited from the brushcutter to help them break down faster. We'll just have to hope the grass doesn't reroot and gain control of the field before our cover crops can mature sufficiently to suppress unwanted growth.
spiders were back at work right after tilling, and rain bejeweled webs laced the field
Saturday, September 25th was a blustery day, but the FSC (field management sub-committee) managed to get most of our cover crop for Fall 2010 in the ground in about 2 and a half hours (the remainder took about 1.5 hours on Sunday.)
Jan, Lyndsey, Fireweed, Mike N and Ron Dobie staked out the four quadrants with flagging tape (photo further down.) Each quadrant was then divided into four strips. The quadrant where our 2011 potatoes will be planted received one more seeding of overwintering pea to continue adding nitrogen back into the soil in that area. We could see that some of the pea planted this past spring that went to seed and is now tilled under to add more humus to the soil, has begun to sprout anew after all the rain. The new pea just added had been soaked overnite, as this seemed to aid in germination significantly last time.
We used a full 25 pounds of pea on this one quadrant (or half a bag at the cost of approximately $ 40)
In the quadrant where we harvested our potatoes this year, we planted a mixture of hairy vetch and clover, beginning with the latter. We had approximately 3 pounds of clover total (one pound per quadrant)
and mixed it with an approximate 10 -1 ratio of sand to seed to aid hand broadcasting coverage. Dividing up the field into strips and measuring out the seed exactly was especially beneficial for ensuring that we had adequate clover seed coverage in the areas designated. The cost of the clover, purchased locally at South Country Feed, was $29.39.
We seeded one third of our vetch in the area where we had just harvested our potatoes for 2010 as well. Mike and Ron Dobie rolled the entire field with the tank loaned to us by Brian Miles, and filled at the Hermitage Barn. The power had been out overnite, so it was fortunate that we could rely on the pump at the Barn by the time of cover cropping, since we have no water left in our cistern to use to fill the roller..
Mike N hauls the water-filled roller over cover cropped ground to increase soil contact and help improve germination
The next day, Sunday, September 26th, Fireweed and Mike returned to the field to finish seeding the top two quadrants with hairy vetch (top, meaning nearest the cistern). Jan and Lyndsey had already seeded the clover throughout this entire half of the field on Saturday.
Total cost of the hairy vetch seed was $63.42...we split the cost of a whole bag with Ironwood Farm in Fanny Bay, which included an extra $7.50 each for shipping from the U-Pick warehouse in Delta to the Vacouver bus depot where Lyndsey picked it up while in the city. Buying the vetch directly from the distributor saved us about $40 over Vancouver Island retail prices.
Welcome, new SPUDster, David Graf
New SPUDS member, Dave Graf, signed up for the 2011 season at the Fall Faire. He arrived by bicycle to lend a hand with the vetch seeding and to assist in pressing all the seed in the top half of the field into the soil with the hand-pulled roller. The high winds we had anticipated failed to materialize, and it was a spectacular warm fall day! Between mild temperatures, wet soil and planting ahead of the absolute last minute this year, we have our fingers crossed that our cover crop will take hold before winter kicks in and do its intended job of boosting soil nutrient levels by spring time!
The total cost of this fall's covercrop is $132.81 for seed and $100 for tillage. If successsful, we will not be cover cropping the whole field again anytime soon. The plan is to leave those quadrants not in potato production to mature and self-reseed as perrenials. Fossil fuel should also be significantly reduced.
Dave broadcasts hairy vetch.Circles drawn over the photo below reveal sectioning of the field with markers for most even distribution of seeds possible.
Mike and Dave. It's easier for two people to pull the roller. Ron Dobie and Mike N shared this work on the other half of the field the day before.
Charlie Johnston arrived to lend a hand, drained the main hose from the cistern, and advised against removing the bottom cistern valve for now. It will need to be insulated over the winter so it doesn't crack from freezing if water is left standing in it. But until we build some kind of water catchment over the cistern (it would make sense to catch winter rains for at least one fill) leaving the valve attached shouldn't be a problem.
NOTE: A reminder that you can find info about proper potato storage on the LINKS list on the right hand side of this page. There are also links to information about various potato issues, like the wire worm it seems likely put tiny holes in a lot of our potatoes this year. The latter is a problem that can be reduced with earlier harvest. But it is also known to increase in fields that have previously been 'sod' in the 3rd or 4th year of new cultivation. Next year's anticipated earlier planting should help!
Pill bugs can invade wire worm holes, so all potatoes should be checked before storage to avoid further spoiling by these opportunistic crustaceans (yes, they are not really insects!)