Solar lignified carbon sequestration fertilization.
Yes, it’s a mouthful. And yes, it’s what we do here at KFF with our cover crops. Cover crops, which are crops that are grown to feed, protect and cover the soil, play an integral role here in our strategy to bring you the best food possible.
What cover crops help us to do is feed the six billion little protozoa, microbes, mites, rotifers, tardigrades, earthworms, beetles, and bacteria that inhabit every square foot of soil. If a healthy food chain is kept going, which starts with feeding these tiny critters, the long term effect is that the natural predators tend to outcompete the bad bugs. Which in turn means that we have healthier, happier plants.
Our cover crop season starts in mid-August when we start seeding down the spring fields to rye, vetch and clover. These will germinate in the fall and grow about 5 to 10 inches before winter, then lay dormant till the spring. We’ll continue to seed this mix as the different fields are done until into November.
For fields that we will be using first thing in the spring, for things such as spring greens and roots, we tend to go with a oats/field peas mix; this combo grows super fast in the fall, putting on as much as 2 feet of growth, and then winter kills. What is left over after the winter is a thin mat of vegetation that protects the soil from the driving winter rains and winds.
Come spring, the rye, vetch and clover wakes up and starts growing. The fields that were planted to oats/peas, we’ll chisel and plant our spring crops. The rye is just heading out right now, by the end of the week, we’ll start mowing and baling it for our summer mulch supply. After the rye comes off, the clover and vetch will come back, giving us a cover crop that we can continue to mow the entire summer. And with every mowing we’re putting more green matter on the soil surface for our little friends. The rye that we bale, we’ll chop down between beds of onions, tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard. This protects the soil from the sun, rain, and wind, and also feeds our little friends down under.