I’ve taken to volunteering Saturday afternoons at The Work Farm in order to glean experience from the farm manager, Susan. We spent the afternoon putting in tomato and pepper plants and laying plastic down.
The plastic is called “biofilm,” and it serves as a weed-block and soil warmer. It also biodegrades after about a year. Stearns uses plastic instead of sprays because sprays are not organic, in case you were wondering.
It’s a process: We spread out the soaker hoses. Then we lay the plastic, then someone comes along and pokes holes at the proper intervals for whatever we’re planting. We scoop a handful of compost into each hole. Then someone comes behind and lays out one plant for every hole. And finally, another someone plants the plants into the holes.
Not to mention the part prior to this when the farmers disked the beds and tilled them and formed them and whatever else someone does with a tractor. I’m not sure of the exact steps. Volunteers don’t get to drive the tractor. But Seth does! He kept me updated about when they were using the tractor to do these fields a couple of weeks ago. My brain does not want to hold onto that information at the moment. Chalk it up to studying no-till farming.
If you leave dirt on top of the plastic, weeds will grow through the plastic — it’s that thin — and everything will have been for naught. That’s why I was sweeping plastic.
The field tomatoes that we planted Saturday are not the only tomatoes on the farm. There are also 300 tomatoes in one of the greenhouses, ready to be tied with strings as soon as they are tall enough. Because late blight is a concern for the area, the greenhouse tomatoes are a mixture of heirloom and hybrid in an effort to harvest tomatoes for as long as possible.
The field tomatoes are located several hundred feet away from the greenhouse tomatoes in another attempt to control blight. I mean, you can’t really control blight, it’s more a matter of planning for the inevitable and slowing its progression. We expect the field tomatoes to fail first, even though there will be a sort of a “wind-break” of hybrid tomatoes around the heirlooms. I took the above picture standing in front of the tomato greenhouse looking towards the tomato field. You can see those white dots on the left — that’s where the tomatoes start.
Other things are growing on the farm too: spinach and garlic and onions, beets and carrots and bok choy. First CSA pickup isn’t for another three weeks or so. Grow plants, grow!