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Empire’s Undercover Mission to Better Soil Quality

21
Sep
2016

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After a successful first harvest of our 3 acres of 6-Row Barley, we shifted gears in our backyard farming to focus on soil quality! Post-harvest we have been using different methods to improve our soil through very specific organic practices.  There are three main ways to improve soil:  grow cover crops, dig in soil amendments like compost and manure and/or mulching with biodegradable mulches.

The barley we harvested scavenged significant amounts of nitrogen from the soil so it was important for us to plant crops that would restore nitrogen levels.  These nitrogen-fixing plants are in a family called legumes. An acre was planted using a seed blend of daikon radish, oats, and Austrian winter peas. The oats are for the peas to climb up, the peas are an edible winter pea that is a nitrogen-fixing legume and the radish’s spear-shaped roots work to break through tight sub-soils in a method called bio-drilling.

Half acre plots were seeded with winter barley, rye and wheat, all of which were under-seeded with clover, another nitrogen-fixing legume.  Aside from uses in our tasting room and brewery these cereal grains help soil through rhizodeposition.  Plants release sugars and other substances through their roots, pumping energy into the soil. Rye and oats can dig as far at 6ft into the ground reaching subsoils deeper than one would ever dig!

Lastly, four 100ft plots of spinach, kale, lettuce and radish were planted with OCCRA compost in an attempt at a late season vegetable garden.  We chose fast growing vegetables that can be harvested in less than 30 days with good weather and a little luck.  If they don’t reach maturation by the first signs of frost they will be tilled back into the soil to convert the plant’s nutrients back into soil.

“If I wanted to have a happy garden, I must ally myself with my soil; study and help it to the utmost, untiringly. Always, the soil must come first.”-  Marion Cran, If I Where Beginning Again

Thanks for reading, stay up to date on what’s growing on the farm through our blog, newsletter and social media platforms. Or visit us and see for yourself what’s what in the backyard beer garden!

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