No Truffles at Frog Hollow Farm (Yet)

• A new vegetable garden called the McKinney block (about 5 acres) will be soon prepared for late winter and early spring planting at Frog Hollow. Barley will be planted in December while in the spring other vegetables will be on the agenda (notably tomatoes). Compost from a thermophilic windrow will be applied hopefully by next week to the barley area and this will be followed by an application of vermicompost. Applications of solid compost will be followed by one or two soil drenches of coffee ground based vermicompost tea. The same approach will be used for the later spring planting. The McKinney block is rented from a neighboring farmer and it requires some work in terms of the soil foodweb. Finally, let’s hope we get more rain so that the microbes in the soil foodweb remain active over the winter.

• The McKinney block and the orchard trees will require as many compost applications as possible this winter and we are hoping that the thermophilic compost windrows will finish composting under three months if we keep turning them consistently and if they remain moist. As mentioned in a previous blog, starting next week the chopped woody material used in the compost will be inoculated with mushrooms in order to speed decomposition of the woody component.

• Since we need as much thermophilic compost as possible, a lot of time is spent measuring temperatures of the windrows (4 measurements are taken for each 25 feet of a windrow pile) followed by moisture measurements and turning. So far, vermicomposting continues under almost perfect conditions: the worms are not drowning because of heavy rains and the daytime/nighttime temperatures are almost perfect.

• As described in a previous blog, some of the plants in the Winter garden were treated by Kristin and Marlene with mycorrhizal propagules. Mycorrhizae benefit plants by conveying water and nutrients (phosphorus, calcium and nitrogen) to their roots. This is a healthy association especially in times of drought (in the past soil fungi were considered harmful to plants because very few fungi and molds had been but studied; it turns out that the majority of soil fungi are beneficial to plants). When some of the lettuce and fava bean roots were analyzed for mycorrhizal colonization, it turned out that no fungus was detected. It is possible that the soil contains too much phosphorus and this inhibits the growth of the mycorrhizal spores. We will keep monitoring the Winter garden plants for the presence of mycorrhizal colonization and , I guess, for the moment we will not grow any truffles at Frog Hollow (the delicious and highly prized fungi called truffles that grow around beech and oak trees).
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