The new year brings us an opportunity to plan next season’s plantings. We have had some successes to build upon. We are in the early stages of developing a living mulch system to grow garlic and potatoes. Living mulches are vegetative covers that are intercropped with the cash crops. To do this, we are incorporating clovers into our cropping. This year, we will have one acre in garlic, one-half an acre in potatoes and about 3 acres in winter rye.
The sustainable farming practices that we are working into this season’s plan:
- “Precut” rye straw — winter rye that’s harvested before the grain is mature. We plan to grow winter rye straw in the summer for use as a mulch for our garlic plantings in the fall.
- Frost seeding, also referred to as overseeding, is a “no-till” way to establish legumes into the winter rye. Frost seeding broadcasts clover seed into the winter rye in the early spring. The freezing and thawing cycles, plus early spring rains, provide the the seed coverage. The clover will continue to grow after the winter rye straw is harvested.
- Row cropping involves the crops arranged in alternate rows. One variation is alley cropping, where clovers are grown in between rows of garlic and potatoes. The clover provides weed suppression and a green manure crop. Another variation is strip cropping, where a strip of buckwheat crop is grown along potato beds. The buckwheat strips grown near potato beds will provide the habit for predatory insects. Once attracted to the buckwheat, these predatory insects will move into potato beds and prey on Colorado potato beetles.
- Garlic planted into standing oats. Oats are sown in mid to late summer ahead of the fall garlic planting. When the oats winter-kills, it becomes mulch through which the garlic emerges at the end of winter.