I am starting from scratch here in New Mexico on our new
farm. It was badly overgrazed and had lots of old horse manure
piled up and weeds so bad you couldn't walk outside without
shoes on. We have been doing our own experimentation here
at 6,200 feet, USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 5b (which often acts
like Zone 4, delivering late-spring frosts) and a mixed kettle
of sand/caliche and rock. Soil is definitely on the alkaline
side, but that range varies greatly from place to place due
to our mixed soil conditions.
I'm working out of raised beds for many plantings and have
18 ready for spring planting now. I am adding at least another
12, all in a sheltered location as the wind is ferocious here
most of the year.
For the garden, I will be planting a mixed cover crop on
that one acre in the first week of March. Right now I am pulling
the yucca I didn't get over the summer. I plan on tilling
our cover crop April 30, a short period but for good reason.
The soil here is incredibly lacking in humus and any addition
I will apply a biodynamic spray to speed up breakdown and
then till it in by third week of May. By then we should be
out of the frost period (hopefully) and will be able to plant
the first of June.
Cropping will be mixed, to some extent due to the heavy prevalence
of wind-spread pest weeds such as tumbleweed. By planting
an undercrop, we hope to cut down on a lot of weeding in the
corn and provide nitrogen.
Some of our varieties:
Corn—“Painted Mountain’ and ‘Truegold’
Sunflower—Johnny’s Selected Seeds (cover crop
Winter squash—‘Waltham’ butternut, Sweet
Dumpling’ and ‘Table Queen’ acorn
Pumpkins—‘Big Max’ and ‘Sugar Pie’
Tomatoes and peppers are raised just in the raised beds,
as with our winds and cool nighttime temps they just don't
fair well (same thing with melons). I have done some experimental
work already and will be applying what I've learned over the
years living and growing here.
I would like to see what you are doing in your plantings,
as it could provide me with more ideas.
Thank you for a great newsletter packed with awesome information.
Thanks for the email and your interest in the work of The
Rodale Institute. From what I read, it sounds like you’re
off and running with a great plan. Of course our conditions
are quite different from yours, but anytime you're in the
East stop in and visit. It seems we grow many of the same
varieties you will be growing in your garden. Would it be
possible to turn those piles of horse manure into compost?
That might be a useful source of nutrients since it is already
there. Overgrazed land can take some time and effort to bring
back, and the perennial weeds that show up from the over grazing
can be a very real issue when doing things organically. Here
again, you are on track by working on a plan that incorporates
cover crops, tillage and a diverse rotation.
It will be a lot of hard work, but the rewards are great
as well. Thanks again for reading New Farm, and we hope we
can continue to bring you the information you need to make
your operation a success.
Hi again, Jeff,
Yes, it is a lot of work. I’m using a mixed bag of
sustainable methods to slow down erosion and am seeing the
results. I have used wheat in some places to hold the soil
in place and will be expanding that soon into more pasture.
We’re also planting Siberian pea shrub along the boundary
locations to slow down flying sand and am adding honey locust
every 20 feet or so. I’m putting it all on a drip tape
as that is one method proven here in the high desert. I am
working on the west side first, as that is the primary wind
direction. Wind is a critical factor here as we have more
than a few days pushing 60mph, but generally it's 15-20 mph.
With as dry as it is now, much of the native grass is releasing
its seed. The sad thing is, we haven't seen even a frost in
better than a month now and can only hope for the best.
I will stop by and see you when I visit my dad in upstate
New York. Not a lot of folks do what I do out here, but there
are a few, and it is always good to see what others are doing.
I will make sure to give a heads up, as I understand all too
well what it means to be busy on a farm.
Keep up the great work; I look forward to seeing what you
are up to.
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