One acre of vegetable production can produce tons of food, if properly managed the nutrient content in the food will be higher that most produce sold at supermarkets. Lets plan for our 2014 growing season to plant only what we can properly manage. When this mindset is applied the food brought to the table is of higher quality and better flavor.
By properly managing a small area with the correct fertility practices, we can produce more food in less space. Less space to manage gives a grower more time for attention to detail, allowing the grower to watch for signs from the plants in order to understand how they are feeling. By understanding what nutrients and conditions crops require, we are able to make better fertility decisions both economically and from a productive potential standpoint. Vegetable plants grown in a biologically active soil are easier to manage, often times the soil will have higher water and nutrient holding capability, as well as an ideal environment for the plants to uptake minerals. When adding foliar feeding into the management program biological activity can be additionally managed.
The foods required for a healthy diet are mineral rich foods. Fresh vegetables grown in mineralized soil are different than conventionally grown vegetables, they stand out for quality and great flavor. When shopping for produce at local farmers markets look for foods grown with not only the label for clean crop production but for foods that are nutrient dense with a high brix content.
Mineral rich soils that are biologically active give off an aroma that we want to smell while working in our fields. We planted crimson clover throughout the field, when the clover was in bloom it was amazing to have the extra gift for our pollinators. Once the cover crop is in bloom many added benefits can be gained from tilling it into the soil, we did this in-between the rows during the growing season. This was our idea for weed suppression and reduction of tillage to keep the weeds down.
We work with many small scale market growers to create biological soil programs for healthier food production, we are seeing many benefits for farmers with our vegetable programs, a major one being flavor. Management practices are the bottom line of vegetable production with a strong correlation between a properly executed management and profitably.
We believe that when it comes to growing crops Mother Nature is in control of production, its always a good idea to mimic her as much as possible in order to reap rewards from the efforts we put into growing. A great way have a successful garden is to start with an ecological approach of growing. It does take time but over time we can build for a feature where pieces of the puzzle will come together creating independent crop systems that require less input year after year.
Plants growing in a healthy soil system send signals into their environment, alerting other crops if something that will effect them is near in order for them to be alert to ward these predators out. Healthy plants will destroy bugs, often times you will notice in integrated pest management systems growers will have satellite images of heat zones, this system identifies plants that are not healthy and vigorous for scouts to keep a visual eye on because these zones are more susceptible. Plants with high sugar content will not be attacked by bugs because they cannot properly metabolize sugars.
Some of the cropping systems taking place currently have more inputs going into them than outputs, this is a negative system that does not make even basic economic sense. In many other countries food large scale monocultures are not an option because land is scare, but somehow they are feeding themselves on smaller sized operations. This is where ecological farming also know as biological farming can create a successful growing operation for farmers of all size because the end result is building healthy soils that will require less inputs each year. YES, even if you have a small garden your a farmer that has the ability to build your soil. A healthy soils system can eliminate the use of fungicides and insecticides because healthy plants are less susceptible to disease and insect infestation.
Each year a grower spends developing a biological soil system an army of friends in the soil will be multiplying. This ecological approach will let mother nature yield a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables for a family to harvest, while achieving many things in the soil like increased air infiltration, a soil that is not getting proper oxygen will not having working soil biology. Along with this comes increased water and nutrient holding capacity to battle challenges with drought, as well with advantages of being able to work a soil earlier in the spring if soil biological conditions are balanced with the correct conditions. Creating the right conditions for ecological farming can reduce many of the challenges that are faced when growing crops, the key to success is to start and keep going forward. This video is long but does have some great information in order to gain a further look into soil biology.
Here we go down the last mile of the 2013 season. This year had its challenges and disappointments for some, but we must remember that every year brings its own unique blessings and adversities. Our spring started off wet across most of the area we cover, causing compaction and less than ideal growing conditions.
We saw early planting problems that resulted in over grown plant and early fruit set loss. Part of the problem came from 2012 being a dry year resulting in a nitrogen build-up carry over. Excess nitrogen availability along with the extra water led to accelerated growth, crowing out the minerals and trace elements needed for proper plant growth, fruit set and development. Signs of nitrogen problems observed this year were one lobe peppers, cantaloupes with green stripes, seedless tomatoes.
Besides the challenges we were faced with there was nice produce at the market, but it took some good management to accomplish it. The first place to start is by taking a soil sample in the fall and applying fry minerals followed by ReStore 3G to stimulate bacteria and fungi in the soil, which then provide nutrients for the following crop. The spring is the best time to apply dry fertilizer trace elements along with a good transplant solution containing a rooting stimulate and some humic acid.
Another management tool that worked well this year was PhytoGroXtra, a high carbon plant growth and soil activator with enzyme/ micro extract concentrate, soil modifiers, and chelated micronutrients. This product will aid in reducing sodium buildup, and improve water and air ratio by reducing soil compaction. PhytoGroxtra aids in phosphate uptake (both applied and in the soil) by increasing carbon levels. Research in many areas has shown that humic acid aids in increasing yeild, plant vitality and fruit quality while reducing fungal disease.
Additional boron may also be added when fruit set is not at a desirable level. We have seen growers having problems with not getting good fruit set and when boron is added fruit set improved. Remember calcium is the truck, phosphorus is the engine being driven by boron.
Just a few things for you to keep in mind while planning next years crops!
We teach that foliar feeding with our products always improves nutrition of the crop, and if calcium levels in the soil are good, there is an excellent chance you will also see a yield increase. We received many phone calls from customers reporting that while their foliar fed hay did show a increase in yield, the major benefit was how well it preformed as feed for their livestock. The animals ate less per day, saving the farmer money, and their animals maintained their health and weight.
Why do foliar fed crops respond well with our program? The N-P-K is similar to what you would find in any other foliar fertilizer, but the difference is from all the other nutritional supplements that are packed into our plant foods. It is like health food for your crops because they feature a trace mineral package that includes magnesium, sulfur, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc, plus organic acids and vitamins.
One way to save a crop under stressful weather conditions can be done by foliar feeding. Look for pale green foliage, which is a good sign of stress, and you can bet you are loosing yield and nutritional value. Plants that start out vigorously, especially in vegetable production are the plants that pay a farmers bills. Mother nature is control, we know that and we except that but we have found ways to lessen the damage that wet springs can have on our crops. The feeling after working hard to plant vegetable transplants in the fields and a week on little sunshine and rain is not optimal for starting vigorous plants but foliar feeding can help overcome these challenges.
Foliar feeding gives farmers a management advantage by being able to manipulate the plants sap. We are always battling challenges from vegetative and fruiting. Vegetative is associated with nitrogen and fruiting associated with mineral. A plant that grows in a vegetative mode without setting enough fruit will not be profitable, unless you are growing grass. We teach growers to think like they have their hands on a steering wheel of a car, they can make a decision on which way they want to go and how aggressive they need to move the steering wheel in order to get where they want. This steering wheel example is used to teach growers the same is true with foliar feeding. Plants will naturally grow, set blossoms, and grow again in this cycle. When following the growth rate of plants and using certain ingredients in foliar sprays can make the sprays more effective. We have seen great results with foliar feeding with a fine mist over the tops of plants with the Kwazar pressure sprayers.
Foliar feeding plants is a great way to increase biological activity in the soil, this will encourage plants to uptake more minerals. When crops uptake more minerals the flavor is outstanding and storage ability increases. The Kwazar Mercury garden sprayer has double action technology per stroke. The high quality design of the Kwazar garden sprayers ensures fault free operation. As you can hear in the background children love to use the fine mist from the Kwazar sprayers.
Another great spring of gardening is upon us for growing a vegetable garden, if we took the crucial step before winter that will benefit our next growing season we are thinking about ways to till cover crops into the garden soil. Remember when planting your vegetable garden that soil will eat first. Lets get our fields and vegetable gardens ready for biological activity by having cover crops in our programs to help improve soil fertility. Growing vegetables for nutrition is the quest but our garden soil is a limiting factor if we do not manage it properly. So many cover crops, what do I grow?
We cant tell you what to grow, but here is a few things you should know:
1. You need to take into consideration what crops are going to be planted in the spring. How early do you plan on putting them in? Growing the wrong cover crop can make things challenging for growers, especially midwest growers who are planting early in the spring. If the wrong cover crop is grown or has not been properly managed, access growth and root structure will play a factor in decomposition. The garden soil will have large chucks of root structure and organic matter to break down before the nutrients in the garden soil will be available to the plants.
2. Most cover crops are legumes with nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in root nodules. After these plants are tilled into the ground the fixed nitrogen will begin to release. Tilling cover crops at the proper time will help growers achieve maximum benefits. Environmental conditions will play an important role on decomposition.Higher levels of nitrogen will increase the speed of decomposition, turning the organic matter into soil organic matter. Soil organic matter (SOM) is decomposition beyond the point of recogniton. To achieve this the organic matter should be worked into the top 6-7 inches of the soil. Soil moisture, temperature will determine the rate of decomposition so plan accordingly.
3. Cover crops will slow down the rate and quantity of water that will drain from our fields and help with soil erosion. The major factor being the cover crop roots are anchored into the ground, this environment is ideal for water infiltration. In many instances soils have conditions of hydrophobia, which is the tendency to not absorb water. Cover crop roots can grow many feet deep into the ground creating room for water holding capacity. This deep penetration of the roots growing in the garden soil will help create a soil environment with oxygen, essential if you want your soil to be alive. With Bare fields we let our valuable nutrients wash away without having the chance to put up a fight to stay around for our next growing season.
4. Depending on crop rotations, cover crops can be a beneficial environment for wildlife. Cover crops will bloom and attract our lovely pollinators. Weed suppression can be a benefit from planting cover crops and make for a better scenery than a field full of weeds. Once the weeds reach full maturity they have been given the chance to spread seeds for reproduction, cover crops can help suppress the germination of weed seeds. After lowering the population of weed seeds in our field by using cover crops, we are not giving weeds a chance at germinating and reproducing. Growing cover crops takes management and planning but it will help garden soil. Most commonly in the midwest rye is planted as a cover crop because many farmers harvest into fall.