Cover cropping in Molino’s orchards

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Well established cover crop- peas, vetch, barley, and oats. Planted more than a month ago with our low-till harrow, then irrigated to germinate while the days were longer, warmer. Now, we’re getting good growth.ccrop sm

They say the trick to maintaining soil fertility is to get the cover crop in early enough to have established root systems to capture nutrients that would otherwise get leached out by the heavy winter rains…helps to keep the streams and ground water cleaner, too!

Now, we’ve got 18″ grasses with pea and vetch tendrils grabbing blades, headed skyward. The thick carpet of growth is protecting the soil, keeping the winds from drying out the soil and the sun from the earth- cooler, moister ground making for excellent soil ecosystem conservation- closer to the natural condition of our soils. After 7 years of early cover cropping, this is the first year that we’ve seen deeper green cover crop than the surrounding fields: wow, this is a long term experiment!

Come spring, we sickle bar mow the cover crop, twice. The first cutting gets raked into the understory of the trees. In the photos, you’ll see big islands of mulch under the avocados, long mulch rows in the understory of the cherries. This light mulch rides up high on piles of brush placed in those same places all winter- woodsy mulch for the fungal mats we are cultivating to feed the trees.

cherry cc 2017

The second cutting gets left in place, covering the ground and waiting to be the mulch that covers the cover crop seeds in the fall.


Winter over the farm

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We’re done in the orchards, at least for a month or so. The cover crop is growing, aided by the prodigious rains falling all along the central coast. There’s water in the creek, earthworms burrowing their merry way through nutrient-rich organic soil, and a whole host of birds carefully picking through the fields and brushlands for tasty bugs…maybe even other birds if one of our resident raptors makes an appearance.

It’s quiet for now, but we’re figuring figures and making plans and putting everything in order to bring fresh Molino Creek produce to the hands, mouths, and cookpots of the community again come spring.

Something to muse on ’til then…