How we grow

One of our primary goals in building our market garden and orchard is to work with rather than against the local environment.  We have tons to learn, and for now are erring on the side of a 'less is more' approach - the punchline is, NO CHEMICAL HERBICIDES and MINIMAL (organic) chemical insect intervention.  Some things we're trying:
  • We're not planning on pulling any land out of the established woodlot (and are inviting it in along the edges of the pasture). 
  • We are opening as little of the pasture at a time as we think we need for our trees and plants.  The established perennial grasses keep our soil in place, provide habitat for our partners, provide nice mulch when we need it, and will provide good food (and then fertilizer) when we get animals.
  • We are leaving strips of pasture between gardens and are planting native flowers scattered within and and at the periphery of our gardens to support our pollinators.
  • We are fertilizing with literally tons of organic compost (spring boot camp this year was carting 5-6 wheelbarrows full to each of our 20 new 100 foot rows).
  • We are amending with balanced, slow-release organic fertilizer, and some lime.
  • Elbow grease is our only herbicide (that and leaf mulch and wood chips).
  • We are using the very bare minimum of chemicals for insect pest control - that which we do use is organic certified.  We start with observation, followed by manual removal, and if we're not seeing evidence of the cavalry coming in (lady-bugs, assassin bugs, wasps) and we're loosing too much ground on a crop, we start with insecticidal soap, then neem oil (organic) and so far, we've also tried organic pyrethrin.  We've also accepted defeat in a few cases and have been grateful when a crop goes down and it acts as a trap crop to protect other crops.  This is where the 'diversified' play comes in.  We continue to scour our resources to find the best disease and pest resistant cultivars.  Finally, we plan to get a lot better at using row cover as a proactive barrier (we tried this spring, but so much wind and the learning curve made for a pretty ineffective barrier after all was said and done).
  • All told, we really want to find the right philosophical and practical balance to let the ecosystem do it's thing with minimal intervention from our inexperienced hands (and, btw in the face of mother nature, we expect to remain classified as inexperienced for most of the game).
  • Next year, when we move on farm, we plan to start working some animals into the mix - and thus to enrich our system and move more toward a 'closed' system with less external inputs, more onsite recycling....and around and around...

Toad Hill Farm

Mason Road, Durham, NC 27712

toadhillfarmnc@gmail.com

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