This is the second season of Ken Laing’s No-Till Vegetable Trials, and the first year they’ve been run as part of Living Labs – Ontario. It is off to a busy start! Ken has been posting regular updates on EFAO’s Organic No-Till Vegetable Trials Facebook page. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening so far in 2021.
In April, Ken and his family planted potatoes into a standing cover crop of rye and hairy vetch, using a no-till planter from RJ equipment of Blenheim ON (see above photo). Ken then flail mowed the cover crop just as the potatoes were beginning to emerge.
As of June 8th, here are two rows of potatoes emerging through the flail mowed rye/vetch cover crop. Wow!
This image shows Ken and Ellen transplanting spinach into deep compost mulch (DCM) on April 27th.
Thanks to above-seasonal temperatures, these two beds of spinach planted into DCM were ready for harvest after only four weeks, on May 27th. Other than the mulch, this bed required no weed control of any kind.
This image, taken on March 4th, shows the emergence of garlic planted last October using the modified RJ Equipment no-till transplanter. The garlic was planted into a winter-killed cover crop of sorghum-sudangrass. During the process Ken found that in order for the planter to be able to penetrate the cover crop, he had to use a row cleaner to sweep the residue aside. This technique appears to have resulted in too much bare soil for good weed control. In the future the garlic will be planted before the final mowing in early October so the no-till planter does not have to deal with so much residue.
As of May 27th, the garlic is looking good. About one month from harvest, the garlic has required no additional mulching or weed control. Because garlic is a fairly short season crop the weed control has not been a big problem.
Types of No-Till Mulch
Depending on the crop, Ken is experimenting with various types of mulch that provide cover for each crop throughout the growing season.
This beautiful video shows the bees enjoying a crop of crimson clover that was seeded in Aug 2020.
In early June, Ken used the loader-mounted roller/crimper to lay down the crimson clover prior to transplanting. This 60″ roller is made by Yetter to bolt on the front of a corn planter. As it happens, it can fit right onto a set of pallet forks!
Deep Compost Mulch
Deep Compost Mulch (DCM) is just what it sounds like: an application of compost several inches deep (enough to suppress weeds), on top of a bed, effectively creating a raised bed. This method requires a large quantity of decent-quality compost, but is efficient, simple, and quite effective for most types of weeds (but not all).
A Lancaster PTO Spreader laying out the DCM prior to planting.
Winter-killed sorghum sudangrass
Sorghum-sudangrass is a popular warm season cover crop that is a cross between sorghum, which is tall and stemmy, with the more leafy sudangrass. It needs to be planted around the first of July to develop enough biomass to cover the garlic the same fall. It can be mowed 2 or 3 times to grow even more above and below ground biomass. As a warm season plant, it reliably winter-kills.