As the nights continue to lengthen and the air turns bitter cold (the water in my Hoop House is frozen solid) and before the seed catalog’s arrive there is little else to do than make bread, and while it rises, to read.
After my recent stint of Dark Sustainable Reading, I needed a change to lighten up a bit, so I recently picked up several books from Fed-Co Seeds. In addition to having a great supply of things for the aspiring Organic Farmer (even if he lives in a subdivision) they also have a great library for sale. In this time of quiet planning and reflection before the active planning and implementation of late winter comes, I am seeking to learn more about designing ecosystems around my sub acre farms to reduce my work in weeding and pest prevention by intelligently designing the layout, plantings, and rotations of my farm for better plant health. First up was Vegetable Crop Health a handbook by NOFA.
The handbook is only about 80 pages , just right for 2 loaves of pan rustica on a cold Sunday afternoon. The mantra that NOFA is stressing here is rotation, rotation, rotation. It is the single easiest way to avoid pest build ups on your farm. How much of this will apply to sub acre is debatable (potato rotations should be .5 miles distant to confound the infamous Colorado Potato Beetle. Um, riiight…), but they do offer some great examples of plant groupings for a simulated 4 year rotation of beds to reduce pest pressure.
They also confirmed my desire to separate vegetable beds with permanent perennial beds to attract beneficial insects. Hyssop, lavender, garlic chives, Joe Pye Weed, etc will provide a beautiful barrier to force the pest to run a gauntlet of predators as they search for where-ever the hell I moved the Solanaceae this year. Cut flowers and sheer beauty will be fantastic fringe benifits of this plan.
Next Up: Soil Building Better Soils for Better Crops, by Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es. Healthy soil = Healthy Plants!