Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting Started with Organics Part 2

There is of course the odd monkey wrench that gets thrown into the organic rotation plans. This year for instance was horribly dry. It was one of the worst droughts on record for our area. The ground was so dry in the spring that we were seeding into dust. We seeded anyways with the thought that this drought couldn’t last and that everything would work out. Well it didn’t.

With the dry conditions the only plants that managed to get a foothold were the weed seeds that were already in the ground in the spring. The melting snow provided these weeds with just enough moisture to get going. The seeded crops struggled mightily to keep up and we managed to harvest at least some grain.

The problem we face for next year is the weed loads in our various fields. We cannot simply follow along with our planned rotations. It is very problematic, but we have some tools to work with. A late planted buckwheat crop…summerfallow or green manure plow down followed by Fall Rye…spring seeded oats cut in the summer for hay or silage. All of these tools will be implemented to try to get our fields back in clean, weed-free shape for 2011.

The video above is a good example of what I am talking about. Red Fife is a longer maturing crop and needed to be seeded early. The field was pretty clean, but the pigweed got established and was quite a problem in the 1/2 acre that I seeded to Red Fife (seed multiplication plot). The rest of the field was summerfallowed and then seeded into wheat in July so that the cows could graze in late fall after the Red Fife was harvested...that portion of the field is very clean now. The video below gives a good indication of the value of buckwheat as a tool to remove weeds.


  1. I really like the discussion of the multiple season planting schedule. I've got 40 acres that I've made an offer on a few hundred feet from my current acreage. It's covered in poplar trees (they planted them in rows like corn, to use to make pulp with) and part of the deal is that the current owner will harvest the trees and then pull the stumps (80,000 stumps) and then grind it up and truck it away.

    So I'll have 40 acres of mostly bare dirt in mid-may that I'll have to smooth and then plant with something. Eventually I'd like to have pasture, but considering what you've said here I might be better off thinking of that as a couple of year process.
    I'll have soil tests done when they've got the trees out. It's river-bottom land, floodplain.

  2. Have you seen the book Weeds and Why They Grow by Jay McCaman? It explains what soil conditions "help" certain weeds to flourish, so appropriate tillage and or cover crops, fallow etc., can be employed for maximum weed control. Another place to look for weed free info in any writings by Eric & Anne Nordell in PA. They use only horsedrawn tillage, but their methods are solid for any type of equipemnt. Their booklet Weed the Soil not the Crop is a great one.

    Weeds and Why They Grow is available from Acres USA and Weed the Soil not the crop is available from Small Farmers Journal.

  3. I have been re-reading some older books (Fertility Farming is one book) about organic farming and wheat production and a couple of the books wrote about harrowing winter wheat in the spring to control weeds.

    Winter wheat was planted for grazing and grain, the cattle were removed in the spring before first hollow stem, then was harrowed (with some sort of spring tooth harrow) to both weed and cultivate the wheat(similar to cultivating corn). It sounds like it might work, but I don't know if I would have the nerve to actually harrow a wheat field without a lot of testing beforehand.