For three years now, our farm has remained unploughed. Whilst neighbouring farmers continue to pulverise their soil into dust up to four times a year we have followed a different path allowing the weeds and grasses to grow. This autumn, in time for us to harvest the almonds we had the whole three hectares mowed and mulched. The tractor mower has a special attachment that not only cuts the grass but also shreds it and drops it back on the ground, and not just grass it also shreds even quite large pieces of wood leaving a rich layer of mulch to enrich the soil.
Since then we’ve been enjoying our farm even more now that the terraces and fields are cleared and easy to walk on without all the weeds. In fact the layer of shredded plant material makes it significantly easier to walk around by forming a little carpet that stops your feet sinking into the mud on rainy days.
Another bonus is that our soil quality is improving. More birds and insects are hanging around and in a particularly significant milestone we have started to find big thick pink worms where before there was only barren uniform clay soil.
Recently I decided it was time to expand my asparagus patch and with the help of our volunteers we laid down six long trenches for the asparagus crowns to go in. To my delight these trenches revealed a layer of rich dark soil sitting on top of the previously ploughed soil. What this says to me is that our policy of no-plough chop-n-drop is working. We are having a positive effect on the land and it is returning the favour to us by nourishing our crops.
I will fill these trenches with a mix we made ourselves of clay soil from the ground and poo/straw waste from the goat house floor. Goats poo and used straw bedding makes a fantastic addition to the heavy clay soil that is already very nutritious but a little too heavy for many plants to grow happily. Adding organic matter lightens up the earth and allows the roots to grow without the weight of all that clay. Fingers crossed for the asparagus patch!