Our no-till planting experiment has taken another round; we have now actually planted tomatoes into the no-tilled field!  It was clear after spending a day in the heat getting those tomatoes in the ground that we are substituting some heavy tractor work, to till the field and get it ready for planting, with some heavy hand labor to plant those tomato plants.  In theory, the less-disturbed soil will produce fantastic crops due to the heigthened soil health, and weeds will be less of a problem, since it is turning over the soil that encourages those weeds to germinate.  We will have to crunch some numbers come winter to help us figure out which costs us more; the tractor-intensive style we are accustomed to, or this new labor-intensive model.    The carbon budget certainly favors the no-till model twice, so we would go that way if all else is equal.  And we’ll see how well the tomatoes grow!  I certainly had some skepticism about putting one of our most valuable crops into such rough conditions!  We’ll keep you posted….   Here are some pictures of the process:

Moving the tarp off the field; it looks like the tarp did a great job killing the cover crop! There was a serious smell of moldy straw that mellowed over the course of the day into a yeasty, bready smell.

We broadforked along the row to give provide a little bit of fluffier soil for the tomatoes to get planted into.  The whole thing is work, but the broadforking in the hot sun was a doozy.  We switched off, and even your middle-aged f

armer was able to do one of the five rows without passing out.  Ana, rock star that she is, did two rows!

Are we really doing this? That tomato is going to make it, right?

Next step; we raked the mulch into the zone right around the plant to provide some weed control right there. Rye doesn’t produce enough mulch to provide a full season’s weed control, but if we concentrate it into the row, maybe it will be close!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next step was to roll weedmat out in between the rows where we had raked away mulch.  Hopefully this will keep the weeds down for the season!

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