Growing greens
by Pete on July 24th, 2011

One of the things I love to do on the farm is grow crops. As a veggie farmer I just can't help but love the amazing growth of plants. Their capacity to nourish and renew the soils and the body are incredible. As soon as the snow melts I can usually be found out and about seeing where I can foster a little extra green growth. Clovers, winter rye, peas and oats - these are all cooler season forages/cover crops which thrive early and late in the season. This spring, before the soils warmed I tilled up an old pasture near the pig field which has been in weeds and ignored for many seasons. With just a light tilling and hand spinning of clover on top, I let the land sit for a few months. The old weeds came up strong but I knew the clovers were doing their thing, settling in, taking hold, and getting ready to take over when presented with the opportunity. A few weeks ago I mowed off the weeds and there - sitting patiently down below was the clover.

In the two photos below, you can see in the field in March when I tilled in the old dead weeds from past seasons...and the field this week, from a different angle. Note the tall weeds in the background...part of the field I have yet to rennovate.
Pigs love fresh forage. They are omnivores and enjoy a wide ranging diet. While we don't feed them our chickens (though I'm sure they would love it!) we do grow them lots of yummy salad. In the photos below you'll see the remains of field peas they hogged down, which we then tilled in and resowed to sudan grass - a very fast growing heat-loving grass which is tender and they love love love. These photos were taken less than three weeks apart! In a week or so we'll turn the pigs back into the field and allow them to graze the sudan grass for a few days. Then we'll exclude them once again for a week or so to allow the sudan grass to regrow. The wonderful thing about the sudan grass is that it thrives when it's cut down to a few inches. It sets new roots and grows back even stronger. I wrote a grant a few years ago and studied it's incredible growth. In fact, sudan grass contributes more to soil health when it's aggressively cut back - and provides up to 6x more organic matter when properly managed! So it's win win for the soils, plant and pigs! That's sustainable farming at it's best.
Lastly, another field which the pigs hogged down and we resowed to sudan grass....

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