It pays to plan ahead (hopefully, with actual money!). And that’s why we’re planning ahead for next year’s garden expansion! Right now we have a 75′ x 100′ garden plot, but we have lots of room to grow. If we’re going to sell at farmer’s markets, shared CSAs, local restaurants and chefs andÂ feed ourselves we gotta expand. However, were going to take baby steps to do it. We wanna learn to crawl before you learn to walk.Â Besides, the more we learn about farming the more we realize that we don’t know noth’n!
For those of you that have been following us (you rule!) you know we didn’t use to have any crop land, we justÂ had a hay field.Â Â We’ll be trying a slightly different method this year to turn a section of our hay fieldÂ into more vegetable crop land. Solarization. However, any way you slice it, turning a hay field with tough clay soil into a garden kinda sucks. It’s an up hill battle to say the least. But it’s not as bad if you get a jump start on it and have the right equipment, will power and planning. Damn right!
Solarization is just a fancy way of say’n “tarp it all over through the summer and let the sun bake living crap out of it!” Hopefully, all the living crap in it really does die. If we can sustain temperatures around 140-160 degrees underneath the tarps, any seeds should die too. Â There’s a little bit of preparation that goes into solarization so it’s important to plan and prepare the site.
First we planned for our expansions. We have our current garden plot set up to 75′ x 100′ and we’re going to extend it next year it by another 200′ or so. So we’ll have about a 100′ x 300′ garden plot. The year after that, we’ll widen it to 200′ x 300. Â We’ll probably max out the following year at 200′ x 600′ in that field. Every year we will solarize the soil for the following years expansion and prep the soil over the summer and winter so that it’ll be ready to go the next spring.
First step is to mow the area, which is pretty self explanatory. Second is to plow. Plowing was a lot of fun after we figured out how to set the plow. Setting a plow can be a little tricky and different people do it different ways. We managed to get it set it and cutting really nice but are in no way good at it yet. Maybe next year well do a little “how to set a plow” video once we get it down pat. Anyway, because we plowed in late spring, all the hay and grass that was growing on the surface is now turned upside down and composting into the soil. Free organic material! After we’ve plowed, we tilled it all up to create a loose open soil. For more adventures in plowing and tilling, check out this post, and these new pictures!
So now that everything is plowed and tilled. The next step is to wait for rain, and by way the weather has been this year, we didn’t have to wait long. Â The reason we want the soil nice and wet has to do with the next step, tarping the ground over. Â To prevent hay and grass from coming back up and ruining our future vegetable garden, we need to tarp it over and basically let the soil cook in the hot summer sun. By letting the soil get wet first the tarps will hold that moisture in the ground and cause much higher temperatures and hopefully kill any potential little garden ruiners.
We are doing a little impromptu experiment this year when it comes to tarp color. Zach feels that clear plastic will be best at getting those high temperatures we want because it will have a sort of greenhouse effect. Dave on the other hand, feels the clear plastic we have is too white. He feels that although clear plastic will let in more light, that this plastic will also reflect a lot of light and won’t get as hot as a black tarp. I guess well see. However, both of them agree that the massive pile of free tarps and old billboard covers that Jason and the guys at Advanced Craftsmanship in Festus, MO gave us are awesome and much appreciated. Â Jason and the guys at Advanced Craftsmanship do some fantastic work, and we’re not just saying that because they gave us a shit load of tarps. These guys really do amazing, well priced windows, doors, roofing and rehab. If your in the St. Louis/Jefferson County area and need any work done around your house or business, for a great deal, they are the type of contractor you want. You can pay a contractor to do a job well, but you cant pay them to care. These guys really give a shit about there work they do, and it shows.
Any way at the end of summer, we’ll pull the tarps up see what it looks like and plant a cover crop .
Ohh yeah, not only are we solarizing the new garden expansion, but we’re also solarizing a space for a future berry/perennial patch!