We are smack dab in the middle of one of the major transition moments of the farm year. You can feel it in the air and see it in the fields. Almost all of the long-season crops have grown, and matured and been harvested by us all and are now curing in the greenhouses or stored away in the barn to be distributed to you over the next seven weeks!
Bed by bed, field by field, the farm is moving from summer mode (veggie crops) to winter mode (cover crop). We seed a nitrogen fixing, organic matter building mixture of Bell Beans, Magnus Peas, Dundale Peas, Common Vetch and Barley and Oats as our cover crop. Soon a green fuzz of Barley and Oats will cover the land and come spring a waist high sea of green will wave in the wind. This crop will feed, enrich, and build the soil next year and many years to come. (Indeed, a healthy cover crop stand can generate over 8,000lbs of biomass per acre. It's like growing compost!)
This Fall transition into cover crop, which takes place on many to most organic veggie farms in temperate climates, makes us think of one of the ways vegetable farming in Sonoma is very different than vegetable farming in New England and colder temperate climates Northward. In colder places, Old Man Winter mandates that you initiate this process; i.e. frost kills the tomatoes and peppers and other cold sensitive crops definitively in October. In our climate, hot crops can sometimes be let to to limp into November. Here, instead, we must end them in order to germinate a great stand of winter cover crop. (So, it is time to say farewell to tomatoes, summer squash, and peppers in the share!)
In Sonoma county, it is best to broadcast your cover crop seed by the middle of October. Any later and you risk colder temperatures inhibiting the germination of the cover crop seed and your fields laying relatively bare through the winter. Here, we are able to leverage our overhead irrigation to pre-irrigate our cover crop before the rains, to ensure a dense, lush cover crop stand.
We recommend taking a moment to appreciate the changing of the guard out there if you have a moment. The farm is at it's barest. The first blades of pre-irrigated oat and barley will be poke up out of the soil soon, at attention, waiting for the winter rains to transform the farm into a sea of green.
See you in the fields,
David & Kayta