“The Appalachian ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the world and so naturally, we have great soil, enough rain year round and mild enough seasons that we can grow a huge variety of things.” Richard Moyer.
As we talked about in previous videos/blogs crop rotation needs to be utilized.
Crop Rotation may look something like this.
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Field 1 acorn squash bell peppers cabbage
Field 2 cabbage acorn squash bell Peppers
Field 3 bell peppers cabbage acorn Squash
Crop rotation is great at helping to manage weeds, pests and disease and cover crops fit right into that rotation. Before planting cabbage on your field in year 2, it’s important to rebuild your soil organic matter with cover crops. To understand this a little more, I join Richard Moyer of Moyer Family Farms in our corresponding video.
Richard shows me where he was growing winter squash last year. He explains to me that he used to grow Rye after the squash but it was always looking puny. Now, Richard grows cowpeas and applies adequate fertilizer to help rebuild the nitrogen, potassium and carbon in his soil.
This year, Richard has followed his cowpea cover crop with onions. We saw in a previous episode about weed management, Richard weeding out his onion beds. Now, fully matured, the onions are ready for Richard to harvest and bring to market.
Richard does grow organically but not in the growers group or for wholesale markets. As you can see, some of his onions are small due to the spacing and would be graded as a number 2 due to their size. In our previous episode/blog, we discuss spacing. Here is a link to a very helpful guide for planting. It provides you with the plant spacing, thin rate, soil temperatures and much more.
I learned from Richard that he didn’t just grow one crop of onions; he grew three kinds of onions with three different maturity dates. Since all the labor on the Moyer Family Farm is family, growing three different kinds of onions with three different maturity dates works well for their system.
I also learned that they leave sodded rows in the pathways to help retain a higher level of water in the ground and to help keep the soil temperature down. This practice is not just for small organic growers. This practice is perfect to implement on your farm as well. I learned from other growers that this helps them harvest without getting stuck in the mud, as well as keeping your plants cleaner and easier to grade. Remember to keep these rows wide enough to run a mower down them so they don’t attract pests or diseases.
Lastly, Richard explains that you should identify your markets before you start growing. As a grower in the organic growers group and as a grower for Appalachian Harvest, we’ve already done this for you.
For 2016, we identified butternut squash, acorn squash, delicata squash, spaghetti squash, red kabocha, red kuri, pie pumpkins, queensland blue squash, red cabbage, green cabbage, napa cabbage, red beets, golden beets, cucumbers, green bell peppers, yellow wax beans, yellow squash, red carmens and eggplant as crops to grow for wholesale markets. If you’re not GAP compliant, you’re limited on what you can grow.
Keep in mind that the first frost may come as early as October 15th in southwest VA and northeast TN, so plant accordingly.
Derrick Von Kundra