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Tending to the soil…

July 26, 2011

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During these summer months the biggest thing we do is tend to our soil.  As any farmer will tell you, soil is a living, breathing component on a farm that needs to be nourished, nurtured and replenished, just as much as any living creature.  Taking care of our soil allows us to give back and revitalize it after it has given to us so generously all year long.

We start by first spading under the crops in the field.  This time also allows the ground to rest and for a natural composting to occur.  The ground is then tilled and laser-leveled.  Laser-leveling means making the growing surface as flat and even as possible, which allows for us to conserve water when irrigating the fields, and prevents low lying areas that create pools of standing water when it rains.  Pooling water in the fields can ruin the crops in that area and creates an uneven growth.

The ground is then replenished of all of the nutritional elements to feed the soil food web.  All of the microorganisms that are needed for a healthy soil are reintroduced, without this our plants would not thrive.  By incorporating nutritional additions to the soil before we start planting, it means that the soil needs nothing other than water after we have seeded the beds.  We use a unique formula of nutrients and beneficial microorganisms that are all OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved. For food safety reasons we do not use any raw animal manures.

Every year when we plant, our crops are rotated between fields, so that the same items are not planted in the same spot year after year.  This practice allows for better insect management and soil nutrient management.  Continuing to grow the same crop in the same area creates a monoculture in the soil.  Each plant depletes different types of nutrients from the soil.  To have a monoculture, means those same nutrients are depleted in that area over and over again.  By planting different crops, it allows the soil to balance its nutrients.

As well, insects and soil pathogens grow worse when you plant the same things in the same area.  With each new planting, without a rotation of crops, these problems will also get more intense.  Throughout the seasons and years we rotate our plantings to make sure our soil stays rich and robust.

We also use this time during the summer to tend to our orchards and the herbs.  All of our trees, from the citrus to the pomegranates, quince and date palms, are trimmed with any dead wood removed from the past winter.  All of our dates are hand-pollinated and bagged to keep the birds from eating them.  And all of the herbs, including the basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and mint are trimmed, to allow for healthy regrowth.

Without proper care for our soil, we would have nothing.  You might say it is the biggest thing we care for – literally.

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