This past Sunday was a very exciting day for me. I planted the first seeds at my soon to be organic vegetables farm.
In the past few weeks I managed to get a driveway installed, the front field (3.5 acres) cleaned, mowed and tilled and do a LOT of researching and planning, I live and breath farming. We are half way through the RV restoration, we now have a Chevy Suburban in the driveway (or rather, in the woods because there is not enough room in the driveway…) to pull our new heavy duty trailer, and today I am going to pick up a garden tractor and a two wheel tractor. Needless to say I spent all the money we had in savings, and guess what, I did all this and I am still married! Ha! Life is good!
Anyway, I left my house in the city at 5 am Sunday morning and made the one hour drive deep into the country.
It was quiet, cool and foggy. And I was by myself. Alone. As in, no one else under the age of four (or under any age for that matter) in the car to ask a gazillion questions. I was cruising down a country road while Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw were singing about green tractors and short skirts at the county fair. It was a good start for the day.
I parked at 6 am and started working right away to try and avoid the heat that will come latter. According to the first phase of the plan (in color above), I have three sections of land to work and two compost heaps to build. Lets leave the compost for now and concentrate on the three big sections.
The blueberries/Blackberries area (big rectangle on the bottom left) will be planted with summer cover crops which will be tilled under in about 5 weeks. I might be able to sow it again with Summer cover crops or not, depend on how fast the green manure will decompose. If I can’t sow it again with Summer cover crops I will wait for Fall and plant it with Winter cover crops. Those will be tilled early Spring next year. I will amend the soil and start planting berries.
The two long rectangles at the top right mark the sites for my please-God-help-me-get-those commercial mobile greenhouses. They are each 200 feet long by 30 feet wide.
Site 1 (left) – Plant Summer cover crops. Divide to two 100 feet sections. In the South section I will let the crop go to seed so I can harvest the grain for us and for the chickens to eat. In the North section the cover crop will be tilled under in about 5 weeks. Than I will divide it to 30 inch beds with 12 inch walkway in between. Those will be my vegetable beds. I think that I will be able to fit 8 100 feet beds but I didn’t do the math yet. I am not sure if I can start planting vegetables this Fall or not due to the wedding of my lovely brother which is in the holly land of Israel smack in the middle of Fall/Winter planting, the middle of September. From all the 365 days of the year he had to get married that day in the middle of September, right? Cause he couldn’t get married, say… January 21st, what’s the fun in that? He is my only brother who I love to death so I might have to let this one go… Or maybe not, we’ll see.
Anyway, if I can’t plant veggies for Fall/Winter harvest I will compost the beds very well and plant Winter cover crops which will be tilled under before planting veggies next Spring.
Site 2 – Here I will plant Summer cover crops and let them reseed themselves. I will cut the plants to use as the green layer of the compost. At the end of the Summer I will till the field and plant it with Winter cover crops.
Here is the Berry field…. (65ft X 125ft)
And here are the mobile green houses sites…. (30ft X 200ft)
I needed to decide which Summer cover crop I want to use. Here in NC we can plant: Non-legumes – Buckwheat, Sorghum-sudangrass, German (foxtail) millet, Pearl Millet, Japanese Millet. Legumes- Cowpea, Soybean, Velvetbean, and Sunnhemp. Each plant has its pros and cons and you can choose to plant one or a mixture.
I ended up choosing buckwheat because:
- I could find seeds at a fair price ($1.35/lb) at my local farm supply store (Southern States — if I had to choose a place to be locked up in for the rest of my life this will be it!). This means I save the cost of shipping and support a local business.
- Buckwheat will grow on any kind of soil.
- It grows fast. Buckwheat germinate within 4-5 days and reaches 2.5 feet after only a month.
- It flowers at 4 to 6 weeks. My little girls love flowers.
- It is considered bee pasture. If I can help the bees in the process I’m game. They say bees make black honey if they drink the nectar from the buckwheat flowers. I would love to see it one day.
- I won’t need to water it.
- We can eat it. I can’t wait to turn the seeds into flour, add it to bread, make pancakes, and, as we do in Israel, cook it as a side dish (just like rice). It’s got loads of protein. This should be interesting.
- Buckwheat is phosphorus scavenger. After the plant is tilled under it releases phosphorus and other nutrients to the soil. Those become available for the next plant.
- It decomposes very fast. You can reseed the field 2 to 3 weeks after you tilled the buckwheat under.
How Much To Plant?
Farm seeds, as opposed to vegetables seeds, are sold by the pound. This was new to me because I never grew wheat or other kind of grain before. So I had to figure out how many pounds I need.
I started by calculating how big is the area I am going to plant. 30ft X 200ft is a total area of 6,000 sq ft. I have two of those so 12,000 sq ft.
The berry field is 65ft X 125ft for a total of 8,125 sq ft.
Adding 8,125 and 12,000 for a total planting area of 20,125 sq ft.
It is recommended to plant 60lb of seeds per acre. There are 43,560 sq ft in an acre. Divide 20,125 sq ft to 43,560 sq ft and I get the area I have in acres = 0.46. To make it easy I rounded up, so I have a half acre to plant. Half of 60lb (the recommended amount of seeds per acre) is 30lb which it what I need.
Southern States only had it by the bag so I got the 50lb bag and figured I have to use a little more than half of it.
I started by removing the rocks in the fields. Talk about a workout! This was no easy task, and of course, I forgot my work gloves. But, I have to note here that I am very excited about all those rocks! I can see them going into the foundation of our future home, turning into an outdoor oven or maybe a floor in a work shed. There are so many uses for them.
After an hour and a half of removing rocks I couldn’t do it no more (and there were still many!). I decided to go ahead and start planting noting to myself that the next time I have to clear a field of rocks I will announce a rock-removing party and promise my friends a fun work day at the farm where they will remove rocks while I grill hot-dogs for them. Be sure to become my friend.
Yes, planting buckwheat… I used this simple seeder you see in the picture above. I had it in my house already.
If you use this kind of seeder make sure not to wear skinny jeans inside any kind of boots. It shoots the seeds right into your boots. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. It doesn’t matter how loud you yell at the seeder. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My plan was to use this rake to move the soil around a bit to cover the seeds. It is a good plan, if you seed 40 sq ft… Not so much if you seed half an acre!
But, being the ambitious woman I am I went right to work.
An hour of work, half the berry field, 7 breaks, 2 sandwiches, 4 pickles (the Israeli kind, which are in brine and are the BEST ones! Find them here), a gallon of water and many many curses later the rake broke. I thought about driving to the nearest Lowe’s to get a new one but I just knew there was no way I can finish raking half an acre by myself. Even with my super powers and all. So I gave up and just spread the seeds. On a normal kind of farm they will press the seeds to the soil by pulling a roller behind a tractor over the field, but I don’t do normal unfortunately.
I left the farm mid morning. Got home and Helped my husband clean our yard because it looked like a the kind you see in front of an old single-wide in the bad side of town. Then I slept for 3 hours. And I can’t remember the rest of the day….
I hope the seeds will sprout. And I hope we’ll have a bit of rain soon, this will help I think. I will follow this post with pictures of the buckwheat growing and I will try to document all that I do with it, So come back to check the progress. Hopefully it will all go according to plan.
I would love to hear about your experience. Do you grow buckwheat? Do you use buckwheat in the kitchen? How do you go about growing it? Did you ever taste or saw black honey?
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