Here we attempt to explain what we understand from the available Google Earth images. Google Images can be somewhat offset, and do not always line up well with actual points and boundaries. Even so, they provide a lot of information not easily noticed from on the ground. The paddock history available is often enlightening.
Images are presented as pdfs are here:
Our image from 01 August 2014 was taken a month after planting, on the day we applied the first fertiliser application. The onion beds are clearly seen.
Visible in the picture at bottom left is the trailer the spreader came on, and four piles of fertiliser sacks waiting to be loaded into the spreader!
A darkened area two thirds of the way between plots 2 and 3 is the site of a bonfire from when the previous owners pulled out an apple orchard and burned the trees on-site. Other darker patches are wet areas.
In this image, the onion crop has been lifted and the bulbs are sitting on the beds curing. In mid-summer the ground is dry so wet patches have disappeared. The bonfire area is still just visible.
The onions were harvested in February. In March, Mike Kettle Contracting direct-drilled two cover crops for us; Caliente mustard supplied by Seed and Field and a mix of oats and vetch supplied by Lawson’s True Earth Organics. The two crops can be seen in this image.
The mustard is the yellow-green stripe with the four sampling plots marked on it. This crop is reported to have beneficial effects for soil structure, soil fumigation of pests, diseases and weed seed, and is reported to break down quickly when incorporated. The seed is relatively expensive compared to traditional cover crops.
The oats are the blue-green stripe below the mustard area. Oats provide a high level of biomass and act as a frame on which the vetch can climb. The vetch is a nitrogen fixing legume, so the combination has synergies. We found the oats took longer to break down than the mustard. The seed is relatively cheap compared to mustard.
The window in the middle of the oat/vetch area is the site of a cover cloth application. Cosio cloth was placed over the sown seed and left in place for a number of weeks. We probably left it too long, as while it did increase growth, it also encouraged early lodging.
Both crops were mulched by Lawson’s True Earth Organics and immediately rotary hoe incorporated by Patrick Nicolle Contracting. This was one of the filed event activities at the LandWISE Conference.
The line across the paddock at image top right is the linear move irrigator given to the MicroFarm by the Ritchie family at Drumpeel Farms.
The paddock above the mustard is mulched sweetcorn residue into which oats were direct-drilled by Patrick Nicolle Contracting.