Why use fertilizers natural?

 The poultry manure that we use in our jars is a granular fertilizer that has been sterilized and which, like compost, can be incorporated into the soil just before the establishment of a culture and without risk of bacteriological contamination. Its NPK analysis is close to 4-4-2 (depending on the supplier) and its nutrients are readily available after incorporation into the soil, usually within 30 days. Contrary to nitrogen in the compost, which must be mineralized by microorganisms before they are available for the plant, much of the nitrogen contained in the poultry manure can be consumed directly, which makes it available even when the ground is still a little cold.

 One of the important points to remember when fertilizing with compost is that its fertilizing capacity is slow and gradual and that, in soil that is not fully warmed up (especially in spring), its fertilizing action is reduced. A combination of poultry manure and compost, therefore, allows nitrogen to be supplied to the plant by the start of growth when it needs it most. After this "starter" effect, the compost comes to play its role in providing the rest of the nutrients required. In our gardens, this combination forms the basis of our fertilization plan, as it allows the release of nutrients to be well synchronized with the needs of the crops.

To have heard it more than once, I know that many aspiring market gardeners will be concerned about where this manure is coming from, as it is often from intensive and confined farms. We can also wonder about the fact that this manure acts more like a fertilizer than an organic amendment. These are legitimate questions that deserve to be raised. My opinion on the question is as follows: granulated poultry manure is an additional fertilizer for our farm. He seconds the compost but does not replace it. Used in this perspective, it is inexpensive, easy to apply, and gives results, without going against the natural process of soil fertility.

This is why I consider it to be an input valid. However, if a new fertilizer offering the same perks was available, I would use it without the slightest hesitation. Alfalfa flour is probably one of the better alternatives, but for some reason, I don't know, it is not yet available in Quebec.

Developing a rotation plan

One of the best reasons to grow a great variety of vegetables is to be able to ensure a healthy crop rotation. Before the advent of monocultures, growers were more aware that this diversification is what allows a soil not to run out and eliminate a lot of diseases and harmful insects. In agricultural works written before the Green Revolution, that is to say before the 1950s or so, it is astonishing to see to what extent the agronomists of the time contraindicated too much crop rotation short. Fortunately, organic farming has put this important practice back on the agenda.

When we talk about rotation in diversified market gardening, it is above all a question of grouping the vegetables by botanical family and/or type of nutrient requirement to alternate their cultivation at a certain interval. The benefits of such a practice are numerous, although difficult to quantify. Let's say that they participate in the general improvement of a cropping system in several ways:

~ It breaks the life cycle of several crop pests (insect pests, diseases, and weedsherbs) which would otherwise establish themselves more easily.

~ It allows the roots of plants with different root systems to prospect the soil to other depths and improve its structure.

~ It avoids depleting different nutrient reserves in the soil by alternating crops with different requirements, i.e. corresponding to different vegetative development (root vegetables, leafy vegetables, or fruit vegetables).

~ It keeps the various garden plots cleaner thanks to the alternation of “messy” crops with others that are so. less or use better weed control techniques (mulching, more frequent hoeing, false sowing).

~ It rationalizes the use of compost by making it possible to amend the soil every other year and it ensures a "bottom" fertilization which will be used primarily for demanding crops and then to less demanding crops.

When we started to cultivate vegetables commercially, we did not grant a lot of impediment to crop rotation. We knew the principles and we understood its action, but it was only after witnessing at a seminar where accomplished producers spoke - emphasizing the importance of long-term meticulous planning. we decided to create our plan of rotation.

However, establishing a rotation plan is a complex exercise, the implications of which should not be taken lightly. This aspect of garden market gardening needs to be carefully analyzed, maybe more than any other. When you will feel ready to take action, I will advise you to study different rotation systems, whether in books or from organic producers that you know, to grasp the logic. To be able to establish its plan, it is first necessary to understand the principles which justify the rotation. For exemple, this is how we do it at the Jardins de la Grelinette.

The approach followed at Les Jardins de la Grelinette

When designing our rotation plan, we first considered all the principles that we wanted to respect. The majority of organic producers plan their rotation according to the peculiarities of the land. Some plots cannot be irrigated, others have soil favorable to certain crops, still, others are always wet, etc. In our gardens, we have considered these characteristics during the development of the site to then no longer have to us worry. Another commonly used practice is the development of meadows and/or fallows on more than one season, with the benefits that follow. But this approach was not appropriate for our intensive model.

After going through a set of recommendations (an exercise that I suggest you do as well), we identified the premises that we wanted to respect in our rotation plan:

~ four years must be respected between two cruciferous crops, Liliaceae and nightshade. It is also an interval to be observed for cucurbits, but less strictly.

~ Demanding crops must be followed by less demanding crops; this makes it possible to optimize the use of compost by spreading it only on plots intended for gourmet crops.

~ Root and leaf vegetable crops must change.

~ Provide for crops that are easy to weed precede onions, a more difficult crop to weed.

Once these premises were established, it was necessary to systematize "rules" and organize the succession of cultures over the years. A good way to get there is to schematize the cycle of cultures in a series of compartments each representing a botanical family and/or nutritional requirements. The exercise then consists of juggling with different successive associations of compa1timents to find a rotation respecting all the premises. To greatly simplify matters, we decided that each botanical family (compartment) would be associated with a plot. here are the different steps that we followed.

Our original idea was to cultivate four demanding vegetable families (crucifers, Liliaceae, Solanaceae, and Cucurbitaceae). We also wanted to produce vegetables from three undemanding families: legumes, Chenopodiaceae, and Umbelliferae. Since these three families are undemanding and have no association restrictions, we have grouped them into a fifth, to which we have also added vegetables not very demanding, but from demanding families, either mainly greens (kale, kohlrabi, arugula, etc.) which remain in the garden for a short time and on which pests and diseases have less tendency to proliferate. We called this last family the "greenery-roots". In everything, so we had five families, so five different plots.