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67 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT, 05701
United States

(802) 417-1528

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) promotes local food knowledge, production and market opportunities for farmers and community members throughout our region.

Last Week's Soils Workshop: Video, Notes and Resource Links

What's Growin' On

An online community of farmers in the Rutland region hosted by the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link

Last Week's Soils Workshop: Video, Notes and Resource Links


Back Camera

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:

Watch the video for details on how Stephen manages cover crops.  Below is a brief overview of the cover crops he uses most:

Cover Crops:

  • 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:

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.

Late Blight

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 ann.hazelrigg@uvm.edu

  • 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.