Ok, I know … Some people like to be naked.
In the shower and bathtub? Yes.
In bed? Some of us.
On the beach? … Well…. It probably depends on the beach.
But on the whole, we spend more time in our clothes than in our birthday suits.
Soil feels the same way.
Rototill the besmidgies out of a piece of ground … a garden, the front lawn … and before you can shout, “SOIL LOVES TO BE NAKED,” tiny little seeds will be sending out thread-like white hair roots. And before you can shout again, “I WANT TO KEEP THIS PIECE OF GROUND NAKED,” those little seeds will be pushing up tiny little shoots, soon to turn green, and those little shoots will grow as fast as a banshee.
Return to that naked piece of dirt a few days later and it will be covered with something, anything green.
A fellow veggie farmer told me about his stint working for a commercial greenhouse. “The floor of that greenhouse complex absorbed every chemical and weed killer used in their industry. AND most of it was covered with either concrete or rock mulch. Yet whenever a bit of soil was exposed, a weed would spring up. It was totally mindboggling that anything would want to live (or could live) on that environment.”
Naked soil leads to erosion and compaction. Erosion from rain, erosion from wind. Compaction from tractor tires, Gator tires, human foot prints.
At Seedtime, our goal is NO NAKED SOIL. EVER. A lofty goal!
We do farm somewhat traditionally. Till the soil. Break it up. Make a nice seed bed. But then we leave the tradition behind. As soon as two rows are planted, we sow a cover crop between them.
Early spring sees strips of buckwheat between rows of potatoes and tomatoes.
Winter rye is seeded between flower beds and rows of onions, broccoli, and winter squash.
This year, we are experimenting with a mixture of plants that will eventually bloom, providing nectar and pollen for our honey bees. Yellow and white sweet clover, phacilia, lupines, daikon radish, mustard, hairy vetch. What a delight to our senses when these plants bloom and bustle with bees, gathering nectar and pollen, winging it back to their hives.
The hours and labor we invest in cover crops would probably shock us. Some would say we are foolish. But the soil and its living millions of microbes thank us. All kinds of bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects will be happier and healthier with a varied diet.
No runoff. The lush cover of plants and roots holds every drop of rain, storing it for another day.
Microbes … fat and sassy.
After all ….
Who wants to be naked?
Harriet @ Seedtime & Harvest
Alissa & Nathan Van Zweden, Alissa’s Flowers
Falls Park Farmers Market, Sioux Falls:
May 3 to October 25
Saturdays 8 am-1 pm