Farm Focus: Cover Crop Season
Now that summer gardens are winding down for the season now it is a great time to think about cover cropping. Farmers and gardeners alike use cover crops, especially over winter, to let soil rest, rebuild, and recharge. Cover crop seed mixtures contain a mix of nitrogen fixers that improve soil nutrition, plants with strong tap roots to break up compacted soil (allowing for better water infiltration) and plants that provide lush foliage that will act as a mulch that traps both carbon and moisture in the soil.
Last season we planted about 20 acres on our new parcel with a seed mix containing organic bell beans, peas, vetch (part of the legume family), barley, and oat. This season we're aiming to plant over a 100 acres with cover crop. All of this work is made possible through grants from the Natural Resources Conservation Service which gives out grants to cover the cost of cover crop seeds to help improve soil health.
While most of it will be our usual seed mix we will be doing something a little different for our new almond orchard. Earlier this year Rachel, our awesome Assistant Farmer, was able to connect with Billy Synk of the non-profit Project Apis m. which focuses on supporting healthy bee populations and strong crop production. Almond orchards depend heavily on bees for pollination but, in most conventional orchards, once their short bloom is over they provide very little habitat and food for bees. Seeds for Bees, a program of Project Apis m., works to help farmers benefit from providing more bee habitat from improved soil fertility, water absorption and tree pollination. Stay tuned to next week’s newsletter and blog to learn more about Seeds for Bees and how we plant cover crop!