Here's a video of the 2nd New Farmer Workshop, Building Soils, as well as some brief notes from our discussion (workshop held 7/28/2010). This was a great workshop, with over 30 folks in attendance. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/13920772]
Stephen Chamberlain, our host, presenter and owner of Dutchess Farm, builds soil health, fertility and structure primarily through cover cropping. He does not use compost. Wendy Sue Harper, Ph.D., NOFA-VT Vegetable and Fruit Technical Assistance Advisor also shared her knowledge and is available with soil questions.
Here are handouts from the workshop:
- Awesome resource list for new farmers - focused on growing. Resourcesfor beginning farmers
- In-depth handout on what to do with soil test results, and how to calculate amendments needed. #2 - Fertility Calc Handout
Watch the video for details on how Stephen manages cover crops. Below is a brief overview of the cover crops he uses most:
- Buckwheat: really good for weed control, not great for building organic matter, coverage ~50lbs per acre
- Sorgham: really good for weed control and introducing organic matter
- Clover (applied with winter rye): Good at nitrogen sequestration, perinial, must be plowed in to kill it, doesn’t need to be reseeded if you are going to let a field go fallow for multiple years. Usually sow it with winter rye
Good SARE publications on Cover Cropping (You can order these from NOFA-VT and get a 10% discount if you are a member). Below are links to the pdf versions.
Soil testing is essential in knowing the soil characteristics when you first begin farming a piece of land. Knowing what you are starting with will allow you to map out a soil management plan that will help you reach the soil fertility and organic material levels you need for the crops you are producing.
Here are a few tips/considerations regarding soil testing:
- Consistently use the same lab, so you can compare results over time
- The UVM soil testing lab is a good, low cost option. It is also good because Vern Grubinger is a UVM employee, and he is an invaluable resource. Have the lab send a copy of your soil tests results to Vern, and he can go over them with you to determine how to address excesses and deficiencies.
- If you are testing soil in a greenhouse, make sure you are using a Saturated media extract Test. These are available through the UMASS and UMaine labs and are more sensitive and better for testing high nutrient environments.
There was quite a bit of discussion on late blight at the workshop. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Stephen sprays copper as a preventative practice.
- Keeping the tomatoes trellised and off the ground, well-spaced for maximum air flow and planted on plastic to reduce contact with the ground are all methods to decrease the risk of late blight and other diseases.
- If you think you have late blight, please send a tissue sample to:
Ann Hazelrigg (802) 656-0493 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ann Hazelrigg is responsible for the Plant Diagnostic Clinic at the University of Vermont
- This is a free test to determine late blight.
- The NOFA-VT website has a list of blight resistant potato and tomato varieties. The pdf handout with the same info is here: Late BlightWS.
- This Cornell University page is a good website for photos and other information on identifying and dealing with late blight.