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For the Love of Garlic and Soil

If you have been following our writings over the past year or so, you’re more than likely aware of a few things. Mainly our expansion to Star Light Gardens North West, the acquisition of more chickens and sheep, all with the intention of doing more than just Growing more good food. But also the intention to grow in a more regenerative and closed loop, incorporating pastured animals and cover cropping, seeing as we now have the space to do so. A first priority in this regard has been to take one high tunnel in Durham out of its regular intensive production. We’ll do some cover cropping and also a bit of planting things that aren’t usually grown in such expensive real estate. Another idea was to proactively replace the plastic on a tunnel each season. That’s when a fellow farmer gave us the bright idea to combine the two concepts, allowing the benefits of rain, snow and atmosphere to reach the soil while it’s out of it’s regular production style. So we decided first to recover the High Tunnel named Hartley(after David’s grandson). Commencing with the lack luster potato planting experiment of the spring. Cover cropping this summer with buck wheat and the fall with peas and oats. Finished off with 10 days or so of chickens doing what the do eating and scratching the cover crop away.

Hartley planted in peas and oats, pre chickens. Chickweed not pictured but certain there
Day 1 and the chickens wasted no time getting to work.
The second to last day, much progress has been made. Yet they continue to work hard.

It’s not quite that easy though, as hard as the birds do work for us, some prep work will remain. Tomorrow will be spent scraping, raking, broad forking and spreading compost. All with the intention of prepping this space for the final push of the 2022 garlic planting. We’ve planted about half of the garlic outside already, nearly 100 pounds. This Friday the plan is to finish the rest, with the help of some volunteers. So if you are looking to get your hands dirty, while working from the comfort of an inside covered space, feel free to reach out. Once all the garlic is planted we’ll haul in quite a bit of leaves giving the garlic a comfy blanket as well as suppressing weeds for a crop that will be in the ground until next July.

The final step to this great dance of chicken, cover crop and garlic is the removal of the plastic. Despite the sound logic behind it, removing perfectly intact plastic simply doesn’t feel right. But the bottom line is that the cover is over 11 years old and there is a hole to be found here and there. As we found out two summers ago a strong storm can easily remove old plastic for us, just not on our schedule. With the right crops in place recovering the tunnel this coming summer will come at a time we choose. Conveniently having a beautifully recovered and refreshed high tunnel just waiting for a late summer planting of what? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Have a great week
Maybe we’ll see you Friday

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