The SPIN starts here: launching my first urban farm SPIN plot
I have started to cultivate the new block of land that has been kindly donated for my SPIN-farming project. It is situated in Bullaburra and has about 300 square metres of usable space. The land is quite typical of the area which is extremely sandy with a bit of clay and will need a vast amount of compost to grow good vegies. The cost of adding so much compost initially is very high, and would take a couple of years growing and selling vegies to recoup the cost of buying in the compost. To avoid that expense, I will do a number of things which anybody can also do at home:
1)I will add a couple of bags of organic rock phosphate (P), Blood and Bone (N), fish meal (N), lucerne meal (N) and wood ash (K). These things will get me started and are a source of important mineral elements. N stands for nitrogen, P for Phosphorus and K for Potassium.
2) I will also water the area weekly using compost tea to also make up for the lack of organic matter. I have a device called a “Syphonject” which attaches to your hose. The device has a second pipe which you place into a bucket of compost/manure tea. When you turn the hose on it mixes the water with your liquid manure at a ratio of 20:1. This technique is called fertigation (a cross between irrigation and fertilising).
3) I will be growing root crops on this site initially such as garlic, onion and carrots. One of the reasons for this choice is that these crops don’t need vasts amounts of compost. In fact, in the case of carrots, too much compost (or too much nitrogen) causes piddly growth and forking (where the carrot splits but continues to grow).
If I were growing these crops in a rotation, I would put them in a bed that tomatoes or pumpkin (or any gross feeder) had just finished and not add any extra compost (providing the soil was in tip-top shape previously). The first year I tried this I had a bed growing zucchini and then planted red onions and garlic with great success.
4) I will initially not mulch the bed but will keep it weed free using a hoe. I’ll top dress the soil with home-made compost as and when it is available. I currently make about 1 cubic metre of compost every 12 weeks but I can halve the time to 6 weeks as more vegetable waste (stalks, stems and roots) become available after my first harvest.
5) Once the crops are about 15cm out of the ground I will undersow the planted area with clover to provide a living mulch. This will not only keep weeds down, but will also provide organic matter to the soil as it will be dug in after harvest.
Living mulch costs significantly less than using things like straw, lucerne or sugar cane. For example, one average bag of sugar cane mulch covers approximately 10 square metres and costs anything from $10-$15. By comparison, 1kg of clover seed costs around $8 and is enough to cover 1 acre!
The area has been rotary-hoed, but will need another going over next week. There are also lots of stones that need removing with a crow-bar. We will be planting toward the end of June with garlic cloves and onion seedlings that have been growing since mid May. We will keep an area free for carrots which will be sown as seed in September. Meanwhile, I am putting this to use for the moment by sowing a lettuce “catch crop”.
If you have some unused land that you would like to lend in exchange for a weekly box of fresh vegies, I’d love to hear from you!
To be fit for the SPIN model, the land needs to fit a few basic requirements:
- Springwood-Faulconbridge area
- minimum of 200 m2
- minimum 40 cm of topsoil
- relatively flat
- vacant and unused i.e. a blank lawn
You can find out more information about SPIN farming here. Please contact me on 0431 383 516 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat about your block!