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Fallow

October 2nd, 2014

fallow [fal-oh] adjective – 1. (of farmland) plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation
Fallow
Fallow is a word we don’t often hear when it comes to gardening, especially when it comes to the home garden. Yet it’s a word we should be saying and something we should be doing. Our gardens need rest because the soil needs time to rebuild. Ideally, it should be covered with some form of organic mulch and left to rebuild for a season. Even better is planting with a cover crop, cutting, then allowing the soil to rest for a season.
Main Garden in back 2
Two years ago I planted a fall green manure on half of the main garden out back (covering a section about 20 x 70 ft). The pigs worked the cover crop into the soil and added manure last summer, in the fall I covered it with cardboard and a foot of chipped wood.
cover crops 3
The soil in this garden needed rest, it’s structure was gone from overfilling and too many years in service growing vegetables. The result was soil that doesn’t hold water very well and crops that don’t grow as well as they could. My goal is to rebuild structure and fertility.
Mulching the Main Garden 3
Now it’s like night and day when you look at the soil in the side that has been cultivates the last two summers and the side that has been allowed to rest and rebuild. The soil food web is clearly visible in the fallow side, there are worms, mycelium and other tiny microbes. There is structure, it’s no longer dry and sandy, it will hold together when I lift a shovelful. Not only does fallow apply to the garden, but also to the gardener. We often need a season away from the garden to rebuild and rest. We come back to our gardens renewed, ready to grow once again.
making mulch 1
I encourage you to let your gardens be fallow this winter, add rock powders and mineral dusts this fall, cover with a nice layer of organic mulch (grass clippings mixed with chopped leaves is my favorite), and be amazed at how a time of rest improves not only the soil, but you as well.

Do you allow sections of your garden to go fallow?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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