NRCS visits Steiner Field for soil building recommendations


NRCS agents Rudy Garcia and Dan Bloedel came by Steiner Field this morning to have a look at the operation & give me any recommendations they have. Rudy and Dan showed me a few interesting points that they noticed about the field, like how the edge of the fields that haven’t been mechanically disturbed in a long time and covered in leaves are in much better condition that the rows that I created last year. Although the rows are covered(vetch,rye,clover,etc) currently, they will need to be disturbed(broadfork) again this year, as the rows are going from 15 inches of usable area, to 30 inches going forward. Rudy & Dan recommended that in my field, I really should cover it entirely with a few cover crops that I am familiar with, like buckwheat, clovers, rye, winter wheat, hairy vetch, and I will most likely use some sudan grass or some other warm season grass. Rudy’s background in vegetable farming, where his family ran 7 acres of crops, where there was no/low tillage, incorporating diverse mixes of species(polyculture), and also adding the element of animal impact using goats & sheep. It turns out that Rudy’s family did something I have been thinking about, which is running a neighbors goats/sheep on the field for a day or maybe two(by the time they eat everything), as having these grazers is beneficial to completing the cycle of soil health(turning the plants into urea/manure). With a few changes in how we think of what a “farm should look like”, which has mostly been monoculture for the last generation or two, we can see highly productive farms producing healthy food and clean water with cover crops and cash crops living together.


Garden row preparation

Here is a picture of the sugar snap pea row I created this weekend; this is a 30 inch wide row, using a single .9 GPH per foot emitter poly drip irrigation tubing.

30 inch wide row with drip irrigation

A few items I have learned since last year, is that the row I am preparing for direct seeding needs to be level, as I only have a single drip tube emitter to moisten almost 1 foot of area. Last year, I didn’t have that issue, as the rows were narrow, at only 15 inches of area on the top to work, versus the 30 inch wide row I will be working with this year. So far, I have planted carrots 4 rows across with this setup, versus the 1 or maybe 2 rows I would have been able to produce last year. To prepare the above row, I used these steps:

1. Cleared the row of debris, like twigs and other tree material using a rake.
2. Used the broadfork to “deeply” aerate and loosen soil and sprinkled 1 wheelbarrow of compost into the row area.
3. Leveled the area and removed debris that may have been discovered(rock,twigs,etc) during the broadfork and compost process, using a rake.
4. Used a “soil roller” to further level out the row area – this helps to get this slightly loosened topsoil flattened and allow the water to move further away from the tube during watering.
5. Once these steps are completed, you can install your drip tube again and seed your bed, or seed your bed and then install your drip. I install the drip irrigation and then direct seed the beds, as my seeder is designed for this, as I don’t want to have to cut/move the drip tubing multiple times per year(just once per year), just for the purpose of seeding a bed.