Here at Thiessen Farms we are now practising occultation.
Sounds a little ominous or even sinister, doesn’t it?
But don’t worry – occultation is really just a method of preparing the soil. Nothing mysterious about it!
The word occultation is most often used in the context of astronomy – when a celestial object is hidden from view by another celestial object. Think solar eclipse as an example.
On the farm, occultation means using a tarp to hide the sun – from the weeds. The ground is covered with a dark tarp for a period of time. The warmth under the tarp causes weed seeds to readily germinate, but the lack of sunlight then kills them. After a few weeks (or longer, depending on the temperatures) the tarp is removed and the ground is (mostly) weed-free & ready to be planted. It is a way to get the ground ready for growing crops without the use of herbicide or tillage.
Occultation is becoming more common & many growers have had favourable results with it.
So we are giving it a try. Here’s what it looks like on our farm …
We covered a piece of ground with a heavy black plastic tarp and held it down by laying steel grape posts around the perimeter, along with some soil filled bags. Apparently that was not enough! All was good – for 1 day. When the winds picked up, so did our tarp! Let’s just say that a 24′ x 100′ heavy tarp becomes quite a sail on a windy day. The next calm day we tried again, but added more bags & covered the edges of the tarp with soil so the winds could not get underneath to lift it. We have had some pretty strong winds since, but so far so good! We plan to leave the tarp down for maybe 6 weeks or more. Then we will remove it & plant vegetables – maybe even carrots. (Carrots are the bane of our farm & we haven’t grown them for more than a few years – good carrots require weed-free conditions, something we have not been able to provide. But our customers want them & we would like to offer them in our CSA shares.)
We ‘ll keep you posted on the results of our venture into the world of occultation.
More signs of spring on the farm …