At Lunita Farm we are committed to improving the health of our community through improving the health of the land. This year we have taken an unused lawn and turned it into a thriving garden. We are not yet certified organic or biodynamic, but our farming practices are indeed beyond organic. We use no sprays or synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or chemicals of any kind. Here are some of the elements of how we grow at Lunita Farm:
We apply organic compost from Sonoma Compost and till it into the soil to increase the percentage of organic matter in the soil. We do this because organic matter is a necessary part of the plant life cycle, adds to the water holding capacity of the soil.
Cover crops are an easy and natural way of returning nutrients that have been used by crops to the soil. We will be using a mix of legumes (crops that return nitrogen) and other plants that help to aerate the soil. We will begin by planting some late summer cover crops that will be tilled under in the fall and, as we get toward the fall, cover crops that will stay in the ground all winter and be tilled under in the spring.
Companion Planting and Interplanting:
The idea behind companion planting is that some plants seem to grow better when other plants are grown near them. Companion planting is a great way to get the most out of a small piece of land (which is what we’re working with). There are several dimensions to companion planting and interplanting: time, space, root depth, water use, and sun exposure.
The most common companion planting scheme is called the three sisters. We have employed traditional technique of planting a mound of corn and pole beans between mounds of winter squash. The corn grows up and produces, then acts as a scaffolding for the beans as they reach toward the sky, while the squash, with its huge leaves, spreads across the ground, shading the soil and reducing evaporation.
Timing is critical in farming as some crops are fast to develop, while others are slow. This can be taken advantage of with, for example, radishes, which go from seed to harvestable size in less than four weeks, and therefore can be grown between other, slower crops. Some crops with shallow root systems and can be planted next to other crops with deeper root systems to take advantage of nutrients at different soil depths.
We also plant companions to veggie crops that are not other vegetables. For example, we grow marigolds with tomatoes to ward off certain insects.
For the bulk of our irrigation needs we use t-tape, which is a thin hose with small, evenly spaced holes that emit water directly to the roots of the plants. In addition to reducing our overall water consumption, drip tape allows us to get water directly to the roots where it is needed, reducing evaporation and improving plant health.
This is one of the most important elements of sustainable farming. Because different plants remove different nutrients in different amounts from the soil, it is a good idea to rotate what crop is grown in a certain bed every year. As this is our first year, we have not yet rotated our crops, but have planted them by plant family, according to a crop rotation schedule. In this way, we are preparing to give back to the soil as best we can in the coming years.
We believe that soil is not an analog to agar in a petri dish, but is a living, breathing thing that must be cared for, above all else, in the interest of growing crops. As we continue in this endeavor and strive to improve the soils we work, we aim to add on-site compost making and animals. These elements of the farm will allow us to move closer to producing all of our own fertility on the farm, creating, ideally, a closed-loop system. We are beginning to make our own compost through the vegetable waste at the farm as well as that from a local restaurant.
With these techniques we are able to get the most out of our small plots of land while giving back to the soil, rather than overworking it.