After losing our entire first tomato patch to deer last summer, we are focusing our energies on preparing some ground for a future fenced-in garden with cover crops. Last fall we rototilled a bit of land and planted the area in winter rye.
This spring at the Midwest Organic Farming Conference I learned that we needed to build a crimper to turn the rye into mulch and then plant a legume into that crimped rye.
I was told that crimping is the best way to kill the crop and make a mulch that won’t blow away. Organic farmers pull roller crimpers behind their tractors in no-till agriculture. (see my blog on what I learned about cover crops and crimping here .
So yesterday we finally got time to put together a hand crimping tool.
The instructions we had were a little vague. It involved attaching a piece of angle iron to a 2×4 board.
As I worked, I appreciated the shorter size. Though I had to make more passes to get everything crimped, I didn’t have to push down quite so hard on a smaller swath of rye.
It seemed to work very well, reducing the plot of swaying rye into a flat mat attached snugly to the soil it is mulching. With the kind of rain and winds we have had the last week, that attachment seems especially valuable.
The class on Soil Building through Cover Cropping and Composting, taught by Jeff Moyer, Director of Farm Operations at Rodale Farm emphasized that it’s important to keep your soil covered at all times after that initial tilling. That makes sense to me.
Our rye cover crop really did suppress the weeds. I’m hoping that it helped encourage mycorrhizal fungi and created more complex soil structure. If you want a quick course in cover cropping, check out this website from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
Our next step is to plant edamame beans into the flattened rye and see what happens.
Hopefully, we will further improve the soil and also enjoy any beans that the deer leave us.
What’s your favorite tool this spring?