Forested buffers along streams help keep water clean and cool – important for fish, wildlife, and humans. ‘Working buffers’ is a program that allows farmers to widen this forested buffer without losing farmable ground by combining agriculture and trees together. Tree crops such as fruits, nuts, and timber are combined with understory crops such as berries, floral industry greens, mushrooms, and livestock forage. The farmer benefits in many ways including diversification of products, increased soil health, pollinator habitat, and protection against flood damage. Our environment benefits through better water quality, improved wildlife habitat, and added carbon sequestration.
When it comes to managing soil health in the Northwest, it’s easy to focus on the big three nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) in the soil, and overlook a fourth key aspect - soil pH. Soil pH refers to how acidic (sour) or alkaline (sweet) soil is on a scale between 0 and 14, with 7.0 being neutral. Most plants and crops prefer soil pH levels in the 6.0 – 7.0 range.
A farm plan is a tool that is developed by your local conservation district and you, to help you manage the resources on your land.
The plan contains an inventory of your farm or property and outlines actions and a schedule for you to make improvements based on your goals for the property. Once you decide that you want a farm plan, the Conservation District planner will evaluate your property’s inherent resources such as; soil, water, animals, plants and air quality. You will also receive an aerial photo showing soils, field layout, water sources, and other features.
Living in the Pacific Northwest we deal with a lot of mud. To eliminate mud, install a heavy use area for your livestock. A heavy use area is used to protect your forage and pasture ground by keeping animals from damaging and compacting the soil in winter or from overgrazing in the summer.
Our wet, windy and damp winters can be very hard on aging and sick animals. Winter can also be a difficult time to bury a carcass on your farm, or to remove it. Mud makes it difficult to drive through pastures and around barns, roads are slick, and the groundwater table is high. If you believe you may lose an animal over the winter, think ahead about where to bury or compost it on your farm, or if you would prefer to have the animal picked up for rendering or cremation.
A cover crop, sometimes called green manure or catch crop, is grown for the sole purpose of being tilled back into the soil in the spring. A cover crop can be a grass, cereal grain, or legume. It provides multiple benefits and can be an inexpensive way to build better soil in your gardens. Cover crops are helpful for small garden spaces up to large acreages.
It all depends on how warm the soil is. Soil temperature determines whether soil microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, are active or not. These organisms transform the raw materials of the soil into available nutrients for plant roots. No grass will grow without active soil organisms to help them.