We’ve been working over the last several weeks to get our field prepped for winter, and finished just in time. Each of the 23 permanent 4’x40′ beds had been mulched with hay once, but still needed a layer of manure and a final cap of hay/straw mulch. Spreading manure in the fall allows worms and microbiota months to thoroughly process and mix it into the rest of the soil, leaving a fertile soil for spring. The thick mulch plays multiple roles. First, it helps insulate the soil and protects it from freezing, allowing the above processes to take place; bare soil freezes and remains sterile all winter. Second, it protects the manure and soil from winter rains and erosion, ensuring that we don’t pollute our streams or lose valuable soil and nutrients. Third, the mulch itself adds fertility and value to the soil, as the above-mentioned worms and microbiota will also happily feed on the straw and hay, incorporating the material into the soil. This is, in effect, the same result as tilling in manure and cover crops, but without the destructive side effects of tillage. That’s the goal, anyway.
Above, you see us hard at work on the process. Manure has been spread over the first layer of mulch, and we’re starting to apply the final mulch layer. We finished the last bed on Saturday afternoon, as a cold, light rain began to fall, and headed indoors. The rain became snow as our first winter storm of the season swept through, and we woke up to this: