Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to Till a Field of Favas without a Tractor

Mowing Down the Favas
In the fall we planted a large area with fava beans as a cover crop. Some of the benefits of cover crops include fixing nitrogen in the soil, competing with weeds, hosting beneficial insects, and preventing erosion. At some point, though, the cover crop has to be cut down, chopped up, and turned under the soil. Most farmers would use a tractor with disc and rototiller implements... but not us. A tractor is a huge investment that we haven't made yet, so we're using what we've got, a lawn mower and a walk-behind tiller. We set the mower on its highest setting, and leave off the side shoot attachment, which causes the grass/favas to clog the chute and stall the engine. Then we run over the favas with the mower several times until they are finely chopped. Next we come with the rototiller and till them several times, starting on the shallowest setting and moving deeper. When the majority of fava material is covered in soil, we stop. We leave it to decompose for a week or two and then come back with the rototiller for a deeper tilling and to make the rows. It's a slow process, but so far so good!

Tilling Under the Cover Crop

Now we have our first rows of tomatoes planted!

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