GREENHOUSE AND GARDEN
We grow our own produce in our new greenhouse and outdoor garden. We use only natural methods to raise more than 15 species and 50 cultivars that you can enjoy either as part of our CSA or by shopping in our farm store!
Our vegetable production system takes a holistic approach to bring you the healthiest and freshest produce possible. Though we are not certified organic, our vegetables are grown to a better-than-organic standard. By buying from us, you can be sure that your vegetables have never been sprayed with a synthetic herbicide, insecticide, or fungicide. We do not simply avoid the use of synthetic chemical inputs or substitute natural inputs for synthetic ones. Rather, we rely on crop rotations, cover crops, precision irrigation, conservation tillage, and holistic nutrient management methods to manage threats to our crops and promote a healthier agroecosystem.
Crop rotation is one of the most important management practices we have. By never planting the same crop in the same soil consecutive years, many common diseases are effectively controlled. Since different crops compete differently with different weeds, crop rotation can also be used as an effective weed management tool. Additionally, soil fertility is improved by changing the nutrient needs of crops in different years and by planting leguminous crops after “heavy feeders” like tomatoes and eggplants.
Cover crops are plants grown in the off season that are not harvested in any conventional way; rather, they are left in the field to decompose. The benefits of cover crops are huge and range from weed management to improving soil fertility. By growing cover crops through the winter in the outdoor garden, fewer winter annual weeds have an opportunity to germinate and successfully produce seed. Leguminous cover crops increase nitrogen availability in the soil for the subsequent vegetable crop by forming a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria which process atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into ammonia (NH3), a plant available nitrogen source. The nitrogen stored in the tissues of leguminous plants is then slowly released as the plant decays over the course of the next several months.
By using a drip irrigation system we are able to reduce our water use by as much as 60% compared with overhead irrigation systems. Additionally, by applying the water at a slow rate directly to the soil, problems with foliar diseases in the greenhouse and in the garden are greatly reduced. Precision irrigation also reduces erosion and nutrient losses.
In our vegetable production we do our best to till the soil as little as possible. In doing so, the soil can maintain its natural structure, absorb and retain moisture, and soil micro and macro biodiversity is preserved. By improving soil health, plant roots easily form necessary symbioses with soil microbes that give our crops necessary micronutrients that we consume and metabolize. Reducing the amount that the soil is turned over also limits soil exposure to air which in turn reduces the amount of soil carbon and nitrogen lost to the atmosphere. Retaining soil structure also helps to limit soil erosion which further improves soil fertility and improves the health of local waterways.
Holistic Nutrient Management
Our farm relies heavily on cover crops and compost produced by our other agricultural enterprises to provide our crops with the nutrients they need. To determine this, we calculate nutrient losses due to harvesting activity and simply replace what was lost with a combination of cover crop residues and compost produced on-farm. By managing our nutrients this way, soil biodiversity is enhanced, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, vegetable nutrient composition is maximized, and nutrient losses to the environment are minimized.
At Mary’s Land Farm, we are always searching for ways to improve our ecosystem and maximize our use of natural resources. From sectional grazing for the cattle to opening our solar field, we are constantly new methods of improving our use of resources. Most recently, we have begun the task of establishing a 1/3rd of an acre hydroponic greenhouse using both Nutrient Flow Technique (NFT) and a 30,000-gallon Deep Water Culture (DWC). Although it is not common knowledge, hydroponic gardening has been around for millennia. The most commonly depicted hydroponic crop is rice. Rice is typically grown in a DWC style environment, whether a swampy marsh or a shallow pond. At Mary’s Land Farm we will be mainly producing leafy greens in our hydroponic gardens but might adjust our production to include fruits and other vegetables as well. One of the benefits of this system is that you can grow virtually any crop!
Since the turn of the century, hydroponic gardening has seen a rise in popularity as it uses resources more efficiently. For example, did you know that hydroponic gardens use up to 90% less water than a traditional garden bed? Our DWC pond will produce leafy greens 365 days a year and use the same 30,000 gallons of water for a minimum of 4 years! This drastic reduction in resource waste improves the overall efficiency of the farm while increasing our contribution to a better environment.