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Things feel much more in control this fall than last. The preparations for our 2018 strawberry field went as smoothly as I could have wished. I altered the implement we use to bury drip tape on top of our beds so we could lay the plastic mulch in a single pass, and it worked beautifully. Once the drip system was completely connected, we gave the field a 5 hour soaking to initiate the anaerobic phase of the ASD (Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation) treatment that we are using this year. Farm Fuel, the Watsonville based company that brokered the rice bran that we spread on the field as the first step in the process, also installs moisture sensors and monitors them for the first two weeks after the initial irrigation. They will tell us if and when the field needs more water to maintain its anaerobic state. So far they tell us things are looking good—proper moisture levels and high anaerobicity. I have very high hopes for next year’s berry crop.
We also start planting cover crops at this time of year. This year we are mainly going with a variety of annual rye that we have had good luck with called FL104. Rye emerges several days earlier than other cereal grains and with such vigor that it is great for out-competing weeds. It also has the advantage that it needs very little moisture to get it up and growing. Often we simply mow down the unharvested crop residue in a given field, pass over it with the disc-harrow several times and plant the rye right into it. The moisture remaining in the field from previous irrigation sets is enough to get the rye up and going without having to water it.
The last major task we have in front of us this fall is harvesting the winter squash. Because of the late rains in spring, our entire planting schedule got pushed back and we planted the “hard” squash much later than we usually do. The crop looks good, though, and over the next few weeks we will let it cure on the vine before trimming and packing them in crates for winter storage.
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