Thursday, September 4, 2014

Books That Change the Way We Think

Every once in a while I read a book that I am in the right place to read. You know, those books that may not have struck a chord at another time in your life, but because you are ready for the information they cause a change in the way you look at things. There have been many books like this in my life, but I am specifically thinking of gardening/farming books.

The first such book was John Vivian's Manual of Practical Homesteading.  The story of his family's life on their Massachusetts farm told in a yearlong format really inspired me to live a similar life. I first read his book in the early 1980s and have read it so often that I had to have my paperback copy bound into a hardcover.

The second book, or really group of books, was any book by Eliot Coleman. His work on season extension and crop rotation took my gardening to its next level.

The third and latest book is Grow a Sustainable Diet. by Cindy Conner. I was doing alright with rotation and my little hoop house, but the cover crop idea hadn't really sunk in yet. Cindy's work made it all seem feasible in my garden. She writes from a home gardener's perspective and made me see how I could make cover cropping work for me. Her blog, Homeplace Earth is chock full of great information too.
Here is my first Buckwheat, about one week after planting. This stuff grows like weeds, which is good as it is supposed to crowd out the weeds. I planted this section where we took out some of the potato crop.

That same plot is now this big:
The bare soil behind the buckwheat has just been seeded in oats.
Once buckwheat flowers you need to cut it down. You can just lay the cut buckwheat on the soil to let it compost in place. This also helps keep the weeds from germinating. Buckwheat is a good cover crop in between spring and fall crops when nothing but weeds would grow in a plot. Buckwheat also improves soil tilth and access to calcium and phosphorus. Most sites recommend tilling it in but Cindy just lays the cut buckwheat on the soil and lets it decompose that way. I really like this woman!
In another few weeks I will probably plant cereal rye for a winter cover crop.
Here is another photo taken Tuesday of two different buckwheat patches and a patch of Daikon radish.
The ready to cut buckwheat is in the foreground. In the middle of the pic is the buckwheat about two weeks behind the other and in the background, with the slightly yellower tinted green leaves, is the Daikon radish.  Not only will we be able to pull radishes until hard frost, the radishes pull nutrients up from deep in the soil and as they decompose over winter they leave channels for roots of future plants to go deep into the subsoil to get nutrients and water.
It's been fun getting to know the different cover crops and starting to work with them. Let's hope they add up to better gardening.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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