Forum Friday: The Baby Green Bed Flip, Cation Ratio Balancing?, & No-Till Wish List
Baby Greens Bed Flip
[The above photo was the aftermath of a bed flip from arugula to lettuce. Not the most fun part of the no-till farm...]
Here is a new thread, but I’ll use it to prove a point. FarmerJesse writes, “I’m working on a post about flipping beds as this seems to be the big question around how to go no-till. And I wondered if anyone has any ideas for alternative bed flip strategies in the no-till garden for baby greens.”
Here is one of the specific hang-ups of no-till farming, the baby greens bed flip. Of all of the efficiencies no/low-till can afford, this is NOT one of them. One of the reasons we created the forum is to address these specific pain points, bottle necks, things that make you want to break out a two bottom plow on a single 100’ bed (I know you know that feeling) through conversation and dialogue with other growers.
You ain’t no Alex Ekins, Elizabeth Kaizer, or Bryan O’Hara, or maybe you are (in which case, send us a message, we’re already thinking about season two of the podcast). We—sure as hell—are not. BUT, you probably know something that we—and they—don’t and are able to contribute to the conversation. The difference between you and the farms killing it is really just time. Further, we get to build on what they do, make it even better, take it one step forward. We make it [harder?] better, faster, stronger, by communicating and working together.
Carbon Ratio Balancing?
David Blanchard writes, “I've been listening to Notill Grower podcasts lately, and have noticed frequent mention of growers using the cation ratio balancing philosophy of soil test interpretation. This idea was promoted in the 1940s and 50s by William Albrecht and Firman Bear, but has since largely fallen out of use except in the organic/sustainable farming world. My purpose in writing this is not to criticize anyone for using this system or try to talk them out of it, but to introduce a different point of view…”
To be honest, you just have to go to the forum and check this one out for yourself. He goes on o write, “Sometimes the flow of information in the organic/susta inable world seems a bit circular and self-referential, in that everyone is reading the same books, magazines, and blogs, while a whole universe of other information is ignored (perhaps because it originates on the dark side, a.k.a. conventional agriculture). So here are some things to read that may stimulate thought and discussion.”
I think this is an absolutely fair criticism of any movement, a sort of echo-chamber effect. If you have any thoughts, concerns, suggestions, or resources regarding a more balanced approach to soil testing and balancing, please join the conversation. FarmerJesse brings up a good point, “…each agronomist seems to have their own ‘thing’. For the Albrecht folks, it’s mineral balancing (though a certain mineral may be more important to some than others). Or it’s cation exchange. To others the most important thing is microbes (some prefer commercial, some indigenous), for others it’s moisture’s, and for others still it’s plants and photosynthesis.” All of these things are important, but how do we balance them appropriately without death by analysis paralysis? Is there a good starting point? Or progression?
Another Addition to Your no-till wish list
In Southern KY, the official outdoor planting season begin next week and—I don’t know about y’all, but—I’m feel broken from hauling cart after cart of compost around getting some additional Spring beds prepped. Side note: we use one cubic yard of compost to establish a 50’ bed. So, when I saw this addition to the No-Till wish list, I immediately went digging… err not, as the case may be.
Villagegreens (follow them on IG) writes, “We use an ABI 25 cu ft spreader (towed with a tractor) (www.abiattachments.com/manure-spreader/) which works perfectly in the 30in bed system – it has wheels spaced at 4ft, a full load drops an inch of compost over a 100ft bed, 30ins wide. We use the standard baffle plate at the bottom but leave it ajar, and drive slow, and we don't get any compost spraying out the sides. It takes 6-8 minutes per bed (from unhitching the spreader, loading up (with FEL), rehitching, spreading, and back to the compost pile). Game changer!”
One of the things I appreciate most about no-till systems work is the emphasis on biology, relationships, and processes instead of tools. Most of the tool innovation is essentially high-tech rakes (i.e. tilther, PDR, power harrow) or buckets (see also, Broadfork Farms badass self-loading drop spreader). This one, however, is scaled to those who don’t regularly use—or even have—a decent size tractor or who are using a standard 4’ bed spacing, and is most def going on my wishlist.