Thursday, June 4, 2009

Finishing up the beds

We are trying a lot of new things this year as we try to get all the starts planted. Realizing that we weren't going to be able to break the sod or get enough organic matter to turn our very silty soil into something that can retain water and nutrients I decided to shop for some hay bales and was pleased to be able to find some oat hay bales for $1 each. Those were distributed about the same time the big thunderstorm came through but I was the only one that got wet. We didn't get enough rain out of the storm to do more than dampen everything.

It was exciting to see the big black clouds suddenly darken the sky. I rushed outside to get the hay bales off my trailer and into position before it started raining. Hay bales are heavy enough without getting wet. Then they are almost impossible to move. As it turned out we got some relief from the unseasonably hot weather with temperatures dropping down into the 60s for the first time in a couple of weeks. The good news is that taking a chance to get vegetables started a month earlier than normal seems to have paid off. They suffered from the heat a little but are starting to grow again.

Hay bale gardens are another way to break the ground, smother a lot of weeds and provide long lasting organic matter to the ground. First you start the rotting process by soaking the bales for the first three days. You want them to absorb as much water as they can. Then you start feeding and watering for the next few days 1/2 cup of ammonium phosphate or about a cup of blood or feather meal. I would be interested to hear if anyone has an opinion on which of those two would work best as a nitrogen source to keep the bales decomposing in a semi hot compost. You need to slow down the feed after that and stop no later than day 10. If the bales aren't hot on day 11 then you can start planting directly into the bales. It helps to have a supply of compost on hand to place around the seedlings and protect their root system until they get established in the bales. If your bales are really coarse you might want to put up to 2" of compost or potting mix on the top of the bale to help close it up. This will help retain moisture and decay more evenly.

I got three sets of bales set out in different parts of the yard. I still have the large patch in the bamboo grove that was planted with a daikon cover crop this spring left to deal with and will have to check and see which is easier-digging the daikon by hand or hauling another trailer full of hay.

I tried broadcast seeding a number of different cover crops this year and the daikon was by far the best, mostly because our soil is so hard and poor that fenugreek and soil builder(cereal rye and field peas mostly) mix just couldn't establish a good foot hold. I was able to mow the 3 foot tall daikon radish with my lawn mower which left the radishes in the ground. Daikon left large roots 6-8 inches long. If I put hay bales on top of that they will leave a very open soil structure to integrate the bales more quickly with the soil layer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some States Still Accepting Organic EQIP Applications

USDA is allocating $50 million of funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to be set aside for a new Organics Initiative to assist organic farmers and those transitioning to organic. Current organic producers and those transitioning to organic will be eligible to receive contracts for implementing conservation practices and conservation planning under the program, but they’ll have to act fast.  Applications will be accepted beginning Monday, May 11, 2009.To ensure consideration for assistance from this pool of funds, producers must file an EQIP Organic Initiative application no later than May 29.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is administering the EQIP Organic Initiative. To apply, producers should visit their local NRCS Service Center. Use the NRCS Service Center locator to find the one closest to you -

Update: The NRCS has created a webpage with information about the Organic Initiative. The site explains the eligibility requirements and provides guidance on how to participate and resources on organic production -

According to the NRCS, the states in the chart below have extended the deadline to apply for the EQIP Organic Initiative past May 29th. States not listed in this chart will still continue to accept applications, but may not be able to fund them in 2009. This chart is continually being updated, so please check back.

State New Deadline State New Deadline
Alabama 6/5/09 Montana 6/12/09
Alaska 6/12/09 Nebraska 6/12/09
California 6/26/09 Nevada 6/12/09
Colorado 6/12/09 New York 6/12/09
Connecticut 6/12/09 North Carolina 6/5/09
Delaware 6/26/09 North Dakota 6/15/09
Florida 6/12/09 Ohio 6/12/09
Georgia 6/5/09 Oklahoma 6/12/09
Hawaii 6/15/09 Oregon 6/12/09
Indiana continuous Pacific Basin 6/15/09
Iowa 6/13/09 Pennsylvania 6/12/09
Kentucky 6/12/09 South Carolina 6/5/09
Louisiana 6/12/09 South Dakota 6/12/09
Maine 6/12/09 Utah 6/12/09
Maryland 6/26/09 West Virginia 6/12/09
Massachusetts 6/12/09 Virginia 6/30/09
Minnesota 6/30/09 Wisconsin 6/12/09
Mississippi 6/12/09    

Even though your state is not listed here, it still may have extended the deadline for applying to the EQIP Organic Initiative. Call your state NRCS office or visit your state NRCS webpage to find out your state's deadline or any other state specific information. If your state has extended its deadline and is not listed above, please contact Tracy Lerman at (831) 426-6606 x 108 or To find your state NRCS office go to

If you have any questions, contact Tracy Lerman, Policy Organizer at (831) 426-6606 x 108 or