FF// Tarps, Mid-June Grind, & Flipping Spring > Summer
[tarps at StoneHouse taking care of leftover crop—and weed—residue in preparation for ginger]
we need to Talk about Tarps
There’s been a lot of discussion about tarps over the last week sparked by this thread on the growers forum. It’s a touchy subject, partly because plastic is what seems to put “organic” and “no-till” farming within reach for a lot of folks, myself included.
Silage tarps are almost magical in their efficacy for controlling weeds without the use of herbicides and most would agree tarping is the better approach. At best, they are simply a placeholder, but are typically used to correct our mistakes. And we can’t assume they aren’t somehow toxic to the environment until proven safe, as well. While we’re searching/waiting on more research to be done about phthalate leaching, it begs the question, could traditional tillage more appropriate for establishing a no-till market garden? Maybe. One of the only other viable options we’ve explored is the “smother and cover” method, which requires a ton of cardboard and compost.
Whatever the case, there is a growing concern about the sheer amount of plastic used in farming, in general. It may not be a big deal now to change your high-tunnel plastic or use a silage tarp, but it may be a good idea to start looking at alternatives while we are able. To get ahead of the problem before it becomes, well, a problem… and some would argue that it already is.
Check out this thread by David Blanchard “inspired by the recent blog post on this site about alternatives to plastic mulches, which included a call for ideas about how to get around the problems with hay and straw as mulches – mainly the weed seed load that can come along with them. We don't use plastic mulches or tarps on our farm for all the reasons given in the blog, so we use a lot of hay and straw instead.”
He goes on to describe how he has handled some of the problems associated with hay/straw mulch that are definitely worth the read.
Farmer Jesse posted a video about the unintended consequences a little too much market success can have as we enter Summer. Been there. Each season is a balancing act between success as a farm (i.e. small-business) and quality of life. It can be especially complicated for no/low-till farms. Regardless, the Summer Solsctice marks the beginning of the grind for most of us, and there are some great comments about surviving it below the video.
Some unsolicited advice? Sure thing. For us here in Zone 6, it takes a little effort to grow year-round, but not much. Leveling the load by extending the season and pulling back in the Summer has been the best thing we’ve ever done. Also, I know you’ve heard it before, schedule time off. In professions that “demand” 80 hours of week, research has shown increases in both productivity and job satisfaction when more time is spent away from the desk, so to speak. We schedule a three day weekend to the lake each month. Last, you don’t have to crush it all of the time. There are times when you won’t, and you shouldn’t feel guilt over it. Give yourself some grace. Get more rest. Drink plenty of water.
Flipping Spring into summer
With all of the talk about bed flipping and interplanting, we’re beginning to see examples of seasonal transitions. Here is an interesting one Perkinsgoodearthfarm posted in the forum (w/ photo):
“I was about to beet knive, take off, then power harrow this bed. Then realize the arugula had died because I flailed at full flower. Planted beans with Earthway. See how this goes. Anyone else flail mower cash crop then plant no till? What crop cycles?”
It’s an interesting point. How, crop-by-crop, can we take advantage of growing habits to reduce both labor and soil disturbance? Let us know your thoughts, experiments, and suggestions in the forum.
Our model is different. It is based on the idea that the more we can share, discuss, and connect, the better our farms will be for the long-haul. Like farmers sharing observations over the fence-row, our aim is to provide you—the grower—with the best no-till information we can get our compost covered hands on. For free. However, it take a lot of time, and not a little bit of money, to keep No-Till Growers growing. If you found this post to be of value, you can help us keep it that way by voluntarily supporting our work for as little as $2/month on Patreon, or you can Venmo/Paypal a one time donation.