Rob Faux Companion Planting Farmers Forum Presentation 2012

Rob Faux Companion Planting Farmers Forum Presentation 2012


Ok my name is [Rob] our last name is spelled, Fau x which if you know french means faux or fake Therefore, we are the genuine fake farm Our farm is 14 acres and we are surrounded by corn and Soybeans in Northeast, Iowa So our neighbors do think we are fake farm now since I’m representing the farm. I have to put on my uniform excuse me I Am now at work alright? This is this is actually my sunday-go-to-meeting Hat it’s the nice one if you saw me out at the farm it would not look nearly so red or beautiful But it’s what I’m supposed to wear just to give you a real brief idea one of the things that My wife and I are very interested in is trying to grow mixed or intercropped Vegetables to try and help each of the plants survive and do well without chemicals and without other techniques We are certified organic farm We have five acres of vegetables on the farm and we started it Do we need to increase the volume of my voice? Okay, we started this with just one lawn tractor and one walk-behind tiller and you can guess how much fun it would be to till about one acre behind a walk-behind tiller that likes to break down every so often So that gives you some background. We came from basically a Large Garden, and now we are a small Produce Farm and we sell using a farm share CSA We have about 120 families in the CSA and we grow all kinds of vegetables from asparagus to zucchini so it kind of gives you an idea of what we do and The idea [here] was we were wearing ourselves into the ground trying to keep all the weeds out Trying to handle all the production We have to find ways so that we can actually maintain these five acres of vegetables get a good quality product out to people and maintain the variety that we’re known for and Then you add certified organic to the whole mess, and this adds a few more dynamics to it. So here’s the motivation for this We actually manage to get ourselves a nineteen forty eight 48 n tractor Which is not a very large tractor, but it’s bigger than the darn little on tractors we had riding around the other motivation is we used to just run a tiller we got into tiller attachment for the lawn tractor and The other motivation was that thing was not meant for five acres of tilling After a Few years the tines were gone and everything was breaking up on it So we needed to scale up or operation But we did not want to give up the companion planting or intercropping so there’s your motivation. We all there with me now I’d like to still scale up and maintain this method. So here’s what we did We said let’s take our old spacing methods when we had the small tillers And that’s all we had and compared them to some different spacing methods with the tractor So we could take advantage of it especially for cultivation So here we go here’s the first thing what we did is we Selected certain crops that like we like to do companion planting with and we took the fields that we grew them in split them in half So the south half would [be] our old style spacing the North half would be the new style spacing and we made mirror images So that meant the same vegetables were closest to the center And then you work your way out in the field and each of these plots if you look at it This is a 200-foot plot and [the] width is 60 so each the treatment and the control are 30 foot wide so this would be The tilled area is the 30 foot, and then you see some greenery in the middle. That’s where we hadn’t planted yet That would be the center of the field Here’s what we did before We would have basically tiller wits and we would have a walking space in between each if you’re a gardener this all sounds familiar Right you till it and you have a walking space on each side and what happens? You have lots of space that you have to keep weeds out of or you mulch or whatever So we do things like we’d have double rows of onions, and then we would have a single row broccoli and then some more onions Cauliflower over here, and then we usually have flowers on the edge of the field [ok] that was our standard approach and of course What you would do is you try to have the double row of onions and you try to make sure that they were wide enough? Apart that you could [actually] run some cultivation in between we use something called a wheel hoe for that So if you’ve seen a wheel, he’ll you’ll see one later in the operation. This is what we used to do and Here’s what we tried to do What we said is ok We’ve got this little for data in tractor. It’s about 60 inches to the edges of the wheels the center is going to be about 40 inch bed Allowing for slop because if you’re not a particularly good tractor driver, you’re not used to it You’re going to kind of slide around a little bit so you don’t want to plant too close to the edge of the bed or you’ll destroy your crop and Of course if you’re going to use any kind of tillage behind the tractor, it’s going to have some play to it So it’s going to slide around so when you’re thinking about having the bed [you] want to make sure that you’re pretty sure that 40 inches is clean, so That you’re not going to destroy what you’re trying to save That was my biggest nightmare by the way if you’re going to go ahead and increase your production and get a bigger piece of equipment My biggest nightmare was driving for a hundred feet looking back and seeing my entire crop rolled over in The weeds still standing there going hahaha. I win so we had to try and think about this real hard Now here’s the thing remember We’re still a small farm with not a lot of tools the tractor is new to us We don’t have a lot of things that go with it. So we’re still doing the butt scootch down the row and Planting in the the plants, but we do have a 40 inch bed which is wider than our tiller before so here We’re trying something new we’re doing onions on both sides and Kohlrabi down the middle Kind of makes some sense doesn’t it I mean Kohlrabi gets done in about 40 to 50 days so it’s pulled out in the onions know a little bit longer So it made sense on a piece of paper to do this and we try to put three in one row and away We went and the idea here is then we could use mechanical tillage for the wider Paths, and we wouldn’t have to do that all by hand, so that’s the plan We also said you know what we don’t know this tractor spacing is going to work perfect So we also modified our regular space and said you know and I’ve always having a walking path between each tiller Let’s just cram two of them up close to each other and have a walking path on either side which Certainly makes fans sense why didn’t I think of this before? Well? It’s because I had no motivation to think of it before So we did that as well and now you can by the way. This is our this is Bharti Bharti Czar Tiller. He’s a BCS good-looking Little tiller and Here’s what we’re trying to do on our farm We do all kinds of intercropping and we decided to focus on two [of] them for the [ser] grant the first one is Labrasca and [allium] so that would be broccoli and onions for example would be a example from each family and the other one that we do is the potatoes and beans and I’ll just summarize this very quickly for you the reason we have the brass canal iam together You’ve all seen those nice little white butterflies cabbage butterflies, and you know about the cabbage worms We are thoroughly convinced that if you have a liam crops like garlic like leaks like onions next to Braska You will have less of that pest in Nebraska crops Okay, if you grew 200 x 60 foot solid of broccoli And you do nothing to control for those cabbage butterflies, you will have a big white sea of them I can guarantee you that so if we break this up with some diversity We believe this controls for the problem. So that’s one of the ones we were interested in with the potatoes and beans We’re really worried about the Colorado Potato beetle that thing’s nasty and We know this works because we had problems a couple years ago with getting green beans to germinate they wouldn’t Guess what happened to our potatoes they also were destroyed because the Colorado potato moved in potato Beetle moved in and took all the foliage away So we lost both crops that year So we’re pretty convinced these are two good companion plants or intercropping techniques So now we’re going to try and make them work So that Rob doesn’t have to walk behind the walk-behind tiller every day as long as he did so here we are in Nebraska and [allium] crops when we’re planting and Here is our tractor spacing here, my lovely Bride Is there doing a little bit of hand weeding right next to the plants real early in the process? You’ll notice we’re doing to Rosa Braska in one bed And we’re trying to keep them about six to eight inches from the edge of that 40 inch bed Yeah, that’s approximately what we’re doing This is our standard technique using the two tiller beds right next to each other and that’s the same planting technique. We’ve always done And here’s the potato beans I tried to put some lines in here for you, so you can kind of see where their ass They’re just planted and of course being seed potatoes and seed being at this time you don’t see anything but here’s the problem that you probably are wondering about a lot of you like to put potatoes in early and Then green beans go in later if you’re going to do this And you’re going to mechanize you almost have to keep them within a similar window for planting time because it’s going to be difficult To plant your potatoes and then come through and prepare in these same tractor beds and plant your beans later So that was a restriction we had as they had to go in at about the same time So here we go. This is an example of some of our green crops with that second tractor or the second no tractor method Here’s what the bra the broccoli and onions look like in June Okay So they’re growing and there’s plenty of weeds because that’s the way it is and Here’s the potatoes and beans, and this is the tractor spacing and I wanted to get to this because you start seeing something here quickly We have potatoes here. We have beans here. We have potatoes here. We have beans there This is the tractor spacing They’re growing right into and right next to [each] other They’re excellent companions because you’ve got the potatoes underneath the ground the root systems a little bit different than the root system for the beans and they both are very tolerant of each other It doesn’t matter if they kind of lean to the side apart from each other and make a crown The other advantage is is once they fill [in] here. You’ve got a canopy between them between them So you have a chance when they’re young to run through with the wheel Hoe and knock [down] the weeds young and then you’ve got canopy that helps prevent prevent more weed germination later on So it was kind of nice in that respect And then as they leaned over the canopy spreads out further into the space between the rows so that was fairly nice Here’s what it looks like with no tractor, and what we did is we’d have a single row of potatoes And then we’d have double rows of beans Okay, so that’s what we’re trying to do here now, remember one of the things we want is we want control of Colorado Potato, beetle So we’re trying to find a way to make sure the beans are close enough To the potatoes to have some effect all right, so this is where some of the spacing comes from and Here is the center between those two you’re going to notice that we’ve got the tractor spacing here And this is the non tractor spacing here. I took the first two pictures thinking gosh I want to show people how beautiful both sides of our field look and I thought well, okay truth in advertising Here’s where we didn’t get to the weeding in row yet? With the larger cultivation pieces you can get the paths cleaned up pretty easy But you still have to go through regardless of the spacing you pick and pull out the weeds in the row whether it’s a hand tool by hand or with the wheel, hoe Okay, here’s the brass canal iam in july We’ve managed actually in this picture to stay up pretty well with the weeds It looks pretty darn good. I’m not so worried by the way about this stretch right here with we didn’t because there’s nothing there right now So that doesn’t bother me so much I can run through and knock it all down, but here We’ve got a double row of onions right here, and right here We’ve got ourselves a rover Brassica And you’ll notice that we’ve put drip line in because in Iowa we also had a drought problem it [just] it’s kind of like having a Relative that you don’t really want around the drought was like that this year for everybody It’s like could you please go away and it didn’t so we started running a lot more drip line? and Here’s what it looked like on the tractor side Notice we’ve got a single row of onions here in a single row braska here, and they’re fairly close to each other Want you to take note of that because it’s going to be important later on Okay, another thing to notice is after harvest this was Poc. Toy. This was Kohlrabi here Both of them are fairly short season and the reason [I] took this picture is because you could come To see that We still had some weeds in these rows But because they were mature crops ready to pull out you don’t waste your labor going through and pulling these weeds now You pull the crop and then you go through and you clean it up, right? So truth in advertising again. We were not perfectly clean with the weeds. We still had them Okay, here’s july potatoes and beans in July the Tractor Spacing potatoes here beans here We always had the beans on the north and the potatoes on the south for every single one of them And I can tell you this much right now that looks darn good looks pretty nice and here’s the no tractor spacing we’ve got a double row of beans here single row of potatoes double roll beans and you’ll notice there’s a little bit more of the Button weed and a few other things in these rows, so it’s just a little bit more weedy And we had attacked both of them at about the same rate, and if you look real carefully You’ll see a couple people back here. We’re trying to clean it up, and I say da heck. I’m taking the picture anyway plus I’m showing you that we do work Alright Then we had a diversion from the season we are in a granite organic vegetable farm and we got sprayed happily not on that part of the farm but our west high off the farm got sprayed, so Now I can tell you why we didn’t get a whole lot of pictures in august of those fields. We were a little busy But here is one picture in august and you’ll notice that Not only did we get just a tad [bit] of rain in August which was really welcome We were a little diverted so we didn’t get out there and get the weeds so now you’re not seeing the pictures as well But what I want you to notice here is This is broccoli and our broccoli was getting to be pretty darn good size because we got the irrigation out there in time and we had some good fertility our Onions are supposed to be here and here But we had a nice wind a couple of times and it rolled over the broccoli plants and the cauliflower Plants, and if you grown them you know how they’ll do that little twisty thing and then come right back up So they’re fine. Well the onions were not so fine. They were pretty well covered let’s just put it that way so now they’re not getting the sun the Competition of the Brassica is winning and the onions are not so happy okay? So what ended up happening in the tractor spacing is we lost a lot of our onions? They didn’t bulb out because they didn’t have the chance to do so and part of that it was they were just too close alright, so the tractor spacing probably losses for the Braska and the onions and Then here is a over picture where we still have the brussels sprouts in here? we’ve pulled out a number of the onions that were still [there] and To be truthful our onion crop on the south side wasn’t great partly because it was so dry But that’s where we got our onions was the south side where we did our traditional spacing We got very little next to none out of the tractor spacing so now I’m kind of saying okay We’re going to have to do something different if we’re going to do that tractor spacing Here’s one of our favorite tools. This is called the wheel hell, this is how we do a lot of our hand weeding and It’s kind of turned upside down right now But we’ve got the long handles and we have a saddle ho connection down there And what it does is it uses more of your bigger muscles? So you’re spending less time with your shoulder muscles hands arms and more of your legs in upper Body working together? so the wheel hell is a good way if you have a little bit longer rose to work larger areas and Then here is where we started mechanizing. This is the ford 8n tractor, and this is a standard toolbar We initially when we did the [ser] [grant] had written it up to try and get a [brand] [new] made for vegetable production cultivator Which can be fairly expensive on the order of 1000 to 17 hundred dollars if you want a new one in Finding a used ones nearly impossible So we went to an old farm auction and found this toolbar that was about 14 foot long initially that had gangs of s times so an s time looks like an s and they’re on these different gangs that can be removed from the Toolbar and we cut the 14 footer in half and had to seven footers and Now what you can do is if you want to cultivate the whole thing You leave all the gangs on and if you want to cultivate the outsides where your wheel tracks are You take these two middle gangs on and run the tractor down the row and this cost me two hundred [and] fifty dollars 250 Twelve Hundred and fifty I think I’ll take the 250 thank you very much, so this works fairly well for us right [here] And here’s an example of using this s time in this case I ran it with all the tines on it, and this is a field that we just we put fallow for the year we have one of our fields fallow in the crop rotation and I wanted to kind of pick [up] the trash and What that means is I have all these weeds growing? They were about this tall and I said, okay? Here’s what I’m going to do I’m going to just drop it down [to] the surface of the soil and drive the tractor It grabbed the weeds and pulled them to the end and now I have a pile of leaves at the end Wasn’t so bad. Okay work pretty good One of the things that [I] did learn however is it Catches trash? So prolifically that if you have tall weeds even if you mow them down anything that’s longer than a foot these things are going to grab and clog the machine up and next thing you know you’re going to be halfway down and your tractor is going to start spinning because you have this big bunch of Trash and it’ll pull things up out of the ground to you know if you’ve got stuff that you’ve broken in It’ll pull that up and clog it up, too So you have to make sure you don’t let things get up too high you’re going to have to use a different piece of equipment Here’s another option that we started looking at we started looking at Paper Mulch because you noticed back Before we had the rows where there was weeding still to do in row, so we did a trial with paper mulch And that’s because we were able to save money on that cultivator Instead of spending 1250 on a maid for vegetable cultivation thing we could spend some here And here is the used a mulch layer that we got it’s a flatbed most layer And I was able to get this for a few hundred dollars as well, and it works pretty well This is a drip tape roll up here I just put a bar across the top and I could find a way to run the drip tape down underneath and what happens is you put a roll right down here of that paper mulch and what happens is this disc digs a little bit of a Trench sorry and Then the paper rolls down underneath this wheel and the wheel pushes it down And then there’s two more disks on the back that throw the dirt back over it So now the edges of the paper ultra cover to prevent it from blowing away it would work for plastic as well But we have a philosophical difference with plastic, so we don’t use it the other thing that we had to do is irrigation and What we found with the irrigation is the tractor spacing was a win Because you could run one row of drip tape for the beam in the potato row Just one, but if you used our old [spacing] you had to run one for each row potatoes in each beam So in one of those we could have 14 tractor spaced beds and have 14 strips of drip tape with the old method I would had to run 22 strips and if you’re paying money for Materials that probably won’t make it through more than one year. I haven’t yet to find anybody who can reuse drip tape well? Because the stuff breaks down you’re going to throw that much away and buy it again next year if you need it so I wanted to cut down [on] that so the tractor spacings a win here and Then of course we did the potato harvest and we were able to get ourselves a little this is an old horse drown Drawn potato pizza Potato digger that we put a three point hitch on and We can use that to try and dig the potatoes. It beats using a pic fork or a broad fork or a shovel and Then we were able to run that down notice the beans are done So this is the other thing you have to make [sure] you’re done with your being harvest Then you can run the tractor and you can go ahead and harvest the potatoes So that’s another restriction with a companion planning but frankly that’s okay as far as what we do and We are able to run that basically the potatoes all get dug up Mostly on top of the soil or at least the soils loose And then we run through and pick them up throw them in containers in a way we go Here’s where it gets interesting You remember in the non tractor spacing? I had double rows of green beans and in the tractor spacing I had a single row green beans next to the potatoes We’re worried about yield here right are we at least getting the same thing as we were before So here’s the deal We ran provider green beans is one of our trials providers a very standard green bean a lot of people [will] grow this thing Okay, and so tractor he had 193 pounds and no tractor. We had 235 pounds of green beans for the season That’s not bad these are 200 foot Rose folks, and I’m getting about a pound per Row foot Which is about what you would like to get okay? So that’s good But here’s the thing Providers here in the south in the no tractor. Those are double rows, so I have actually got 400 seed foot I’ve dropped twice as much seed, and I’m not getting twice as much production for the providers So I actually wasted seed in that double row with the provider Okay, that’s the first thing you should notice the second thing. You should notice is for Jade Look at that. That’s just about double. This is the double row. This is the single row jade didn’t care It said it’s okay if you run me into double row I’ll give you about double production so its seed foot has the same ratio. It’s row foot is approximately double and in both cases They weren’t affected for their production by the potatoes. They were next to Okay, so that means [I] can have a win either way But I probably should change my ideas about putting providers in a double row Because I’m not going to get more out of that double row then I got out of the single Row That was by the way not one of the questions we were asking but it was cool to find out okay So that’s the first thing and here’s the other thing We did the potatoes by the way That’s Bullwinkle the potato We ended up pulling a potato out that looked a lot like Bullwinkle And of course we brought it to the market and everybody was having fun with it But here’s what we learned with some of our potatoes rio grande is this type over here, and it’s a russet type And you’ll notice that with no tractor in tractor spacing the tractor spacing was down a fair amount Okay, and that’s the one where the beans are next door like right next door and with the non tractor They’re a little further away. There’s possibility here although it’s not statistically significant that those potatoes were affected by the beans on the Other hand the purple Majesty’s are right about the same So they didn’t appear to be affected at all whether the potatoes were next door or not next door to the beans Okay, so this could be very much variety to independent or dependent. I don’t know which right [now] I would have to study it more but this is telling me that that tractor spacing can work now Here’s the other thing that was interesting about it I don’t have a slide for it we found that the potato beetles that we found in the field were always on the Edges in both cases so the ends of the Rose okay, so what does that tell me that tells me it looks like the companion planting or intercropping worked because whenever I found that the pest they were not where the rows were next to each other they were on the ends, so [this] is a good thing and That is my quick summary of what we ended up doing which means I’d like to get questions from you if you have them yeah Between gardening and mechanization and one guy [that] I was talking [to] you saying that if you plant by hand versus planting off of a tractor or Alpha bar spacing It makes it very hard to cultivate with the tractor because it’s hard to get your uniform row space And what was your experience with that? the question or the Observation has to do with planting by hand versus planting mechanically and the issue if you plant by hand if you saw the butt scootch Picture way back at the beginning with people planting you notice the onion rose. Did this nice little sneaky thing and None of them were exactly the same distance apart because no matter how hard we tried We couldn’t get them straight [alright], and then when you do the mechanical Cultivation that’s an issue, and it’s entirely true Entirely true, it is very hard to take hand planting and combine it with mechanized cultivation so what we ended up having to do or what you have to do in this case is we tried to make sure that the Outsides where those paths were where the wheel tracks were that’s where the mechanized cultivation came in I? Did not try mechanize cultivation in between the [companions] that ended up being the wheel hoe anyway? So the net result though is I didn’t save the labor I was hoping to save with the tractor planting because it wasn’t straight So here’s the next part we’re looking at maybe a waterwheel Transplanter in the future and that will [force] if it’s not a perfectly straight row it’s a tractor straight row or two gentle curve instead of and the spacing [between] them the same and Here’s the second part to that answer the paper mulch can come pre-punched And if they have pre-punched holes than there are always the same spacing but you’re also not cultivating in between so those are our two possible approaches right there good question yes Tractors planting it and then come arrive with physics rope elevator you rip up this much, but how did your paper much work out? Okay, ah the there’s an observation about it’s easy to handle crookedness when you’re working with it with the tractor. Yes And bacon s with it all at the same time yeah in fact we had when we did the potato digging I had it shift on me a [couple] times and of course now you go to go back and get those areas again But the issue was the question about the paper mulch. How did it work? The first thing that I noticed about the paper mulch is it actually lasted longer than I thought it would I was prepared to maybe? Throw a mulch on top of the paper mulch after a while, but that’s probably because it was so dry If we add the moisture, I think it would break down faster. I did notice that as Far as what I liked about is the fact that When it did rain the rain was taken advantage of because it would go through the paper mulch, okay? I also noticed because I’ve [seen] and worked with people. Who’ve used plastic that it laid no worse It laid just as well with this flatbed Mulcher as plastic it. Maybe would make you nervous as [it] would Intend to maybe tear you would think or wrinkle, but it handled it fine. We did get the heavier mulch We didn’t get the light paper mulch So that might have been part of the deals we got the heavier mulch and we were intending on it But I was pleased enough we only bought a couple rolls to try it I’m going to do a much bigger trial next year. It was it was that good? I’ll be around out here and back with anybody wants to talk the you Bye

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