Sustainable Agriculture

 Green Manures and Cover Crops

Soil testing shows that we have fundamentally rich soil, high in phosphorous and potassium, and slightly above average in nitrogen.
 We plant field peas and soybeans between crops, then till these cover crops in, to increase the nitrogen content of our soil.  This is especially helpful when growing veggies that use lots of nitrogen (like corn and cabbage!)  The use of these so-called "green manures" enables us to add the required nitrogen without the use of chemical fertilizers.

Compost

pH is another indicator that we monitor.  The prairies often have somewhat alkaline soil, and our beds are no exception.  We add compost regularly, and till in vegetation at the end of the season; this addition of organic matter helps moderate the alkalinity.  
For more acid-loving crops, like potatoes, we add Canadian peat moss to the mix, again allowing us to amend the soil without the use of chemical fertilizers.

Crop Rotation and Selection

Disciplined crop rotation is another tool that we use to help us minimize pests and disease.  We typically have a 5-year rotation, in some cases as much as 6 years.  Our potatoes, tomatoes and cabbage family plants typically have very few problems, and we believe this is partly due to our strict crop rotation plan.
We are careful about the varieties we select for growing.  Some plants grow best in cool weather, some in hot weather, some in dry climates, some in wet.  By selecting varieties that do best in our dry Alberta climate, and that can handle our somewhat alkaline soil, we are able to grow beautiful vegetables, despite the vagaries of our prairie weather.

 

Reduced Tillage

In an effort to keep our soil biology healthy, we have recently been working to decrease the amount of tillage.  Experimentation shows that although we need to do some tilling, we can reduce the frequency.  This keeps moisture in the ground, and helps to maintain the biological equilibrium.

Water Management

Much of Alberta's climate is dry, and our farm is no exception.  Water is sometimes scarce in the summer here, and we believe that water conservation is an important part of responsible stewardship.
To optimize our use of this precious commodity, we have installed a rainwater catchment system, and use drip irrigation to water our crops.
We plant our crops close together; this allows the plants to shade each other, minimizing water loss.  It also helps to keep the weeds down!
We plant our crops close together; this allows the plants to shade each other, minimizing water loss.  It also helps to keep the weeds down!