Fields, Beds and Plots

no dig beds and poly tunnelsGo Local Food farms on nearly 2 acres of land using a 4 crop rotation system to ensure our soil maintains lots of nutrients to grow lovely veg. The fields are divided into beds and the 4 groups rotate annually – which is why your beans, sprouts and so on are never found in the same place – even the poly tunnels have a rotation.

The rotation:

  1. Alliums = onions, leeks
  2. Brassicas = cabbages, cauliflowers, sprouts
  3. Legumes = peas and beans
  4. Potatoes and greedy feeders = potatoes, squash

Umbelliferae crops such as lettuce, chard, beetroot, carrots and spinach can be planted as infill crops where spaces are cleared to make the most use of the beds.

We started out thinking that mechanising our growing would be the way to go and originally planned to create ridges growing in and between the ridges. This proved quite tricky, weeding and knowing where to put your feet was hard work! We ditched the ridging idea, have continued to plough our fields and beds and added as much compost and muck as we can to improve the soil without using any chemicals.

Whilst this year we estimate we have produced 5.5 tons of vegetables in some parts of the fields the soil remains in poor quality and you will have noticed that the beds are often very weedful! We are also aware that using machinery compacts the soil and this has an impact on production.

Until we find extra land and develop our community farm, we need to be growing as efficiently and effectively as we can to feed our growing membership whilst looking after our volunteers. And so we have devised a trial project which we are setting up on the middle field, turning beds into no-dig plots.

The plots will be 75 cm wide, and divided by wood chip paths, far too small for standard tractors so less compaction of the soil. You can straddle the plots for planting, weeding and harvesting purposes, again less compaction and for cultivation purposes we are going to rely on worms and other fauna to digest compost and enrich the soil.
Take a look at the pilot plots created to help us understand more about how to do it work out the measurements – we’ve had great lettuces and fennel from these beds.

More on the trial soon…