Organic Entourage
It’s been really humid this summer. One very real concern is an outbreak of a fungal growth called septoria that can eventually consume the whole plant. We’re seeing a handful of leaves here and there which is “normal” given the humid days and cooler nights. We’re not particularly concerned as the plants are healthy in part from all the compost tea we’ve sprayed that not only nutrient feeds the plants through the leaves but also deposits beneficial microbes that tend to fend off fungi and some pests. Nonetheless, we’re clearing out the foliage to ensure good air flow.
We got disc hilling working on our DIY mulch layer, mulch lifter, and water wheel planter. Now if I can just figure out how to add a "kitchen sink" :)
We started experimenting with converting our DIY combination mulch layer, mulch lifter, and water wheel planter to include disc hilling. It looks promising. In the next few days, we’ll work on it some more to see if we can’t incorporate laying the plastic/paper mulch in the same process.
It's hard getting our tiller to any significant depth.
A month ago, we move about 150 plants from wet ground where they were doing very poorly. Thy looked like 6” tall lollypops – a tuft of leaves on top of a stick. A month later, and these plants have made a remarkable recovery in this well-draining sandy soil. Clearly, with all the rain we’ve been getting, we absolutely must get hilling figured out. We also are contacting contractors to get a section of the field tiled.
Faced with having to trim acres of cover along the edges of the plastic weed barrier, I decided to rig up the string trimmer onto our 4-wheeler. At first, I mounted it to the front of the 4-wheeler but this setup didn’t fit between the rows well and the string hit the front tire upon turning. The arrangement in this video worked great.
Inside our turn-of-the-century barn.
We're helping out the organic dairy we're working with on their field too. This year is much better. We should get some nice buds to dry and cure for direct sales to internet customers from this field.
It's embarrassing to publish this video but it's where we're at. Live and learn as they say. Maybe it will save someone from the having to go through the same.

I'm now convinced over 90% of the issues we've had the last two years in both fields is due to excess soil moisture. We're looking at tiling the silty loam soil in the field shown and hilling the clayey loam in the other field.
We’re trying a few different approaches to try to figure out how to deal with too much rain. One is to mound the soil about 5” and plant the seedling into it. Two others are to mound up around the leggy plants with soil and with compost. We’re also moving about 150 plants to a part of the field that’s doing really well – where the soil is sandy and well-draining.
To help fend off powdery mildew and other diseases, along with providing additional nutrients, we spray every one or two weeks with a tea that we brew up from organic worm castings. If you notice, we're using a standard brass hose nozzle. Sometimes when the tea is really thick and plugs up even this nozzle, we'll just install a plastic hose ball valve and pinch off the spray a bit. In other words, even using a 400 mesh bag to hold the compost, the tea will plug up most nozzles. Using a nozzle or ball valve prevents this along with making the leaves "dance" when being sprayed so both sides get covered.
Since our previous video on compost tea was popular, we thought maybe a few more details about our DIY brewer might be of interest.
I've been trying to understand why deep tilling our hemp field resulted in it being unusable when normally it improves wet soil conditions.
A couple of tips for changing the transmission oil on a John Deere 4000 series tractor.
Replacing the tie rod ends on a John Deere 4000 series tractor used on our organic CBD hemp farm.
Due to wet weather and having to move our field, we were a week late getting our CBD hemp seedlings transplanted. As a result, they got too tall competing for light in their densely filled 72-cell trays. To make matters worse, shortly after translating, we got two nights of torrential rain and wind gusts up to 45mph. The stems on about 50 of the taller starts “kinked” causing the seedling to double over. To prevent any further loses, we’ve spent the last two days making and installing stakes on over 500 of the taller seedlings - and counting. Hopefully, the plants will be able to harden up against these winds and the sun will come back out soon!
Due to wet weather, we were at least a week late getting the "starts" in.
For those considering using plastic or paper "mulch", we finally had success with our DIY equipment. For what it's worth and not surprisingly, this type of machinery only appears to work in very loose (friable) soil. Otherwise, the soil simply doesn't flow properly off the discs.

This entire field was roto-tilled and will be seeded with a cover crop after the hemp seedlings are in. Granted, roto-tilling destroys soil biology but the family farmers that work this land are already swamped trying to get their other fields in along with running their organic dairy – our narrow rows with minimal tilling were a disaster when it came to getting the edges covered. They did apply tons of organic compost to the field prior to tilling. We're looking for better ways to nurture the soil so if anyone has resources that may be helpful, please share them below. At a minimum, we are doing a small trial this year with bio-degradable paper mulch and hope to use it next year.

Specific to this equipment, we set the front discs at 45 degrees and ran them fairly deep - about 5". This threw up enough soil for the trailing discs, set at 30 degrees, to cover over the edges. Another key factor was using a tractor big enough along with having sway bars that could tightly fix the equipment behind the tractor - no side-to-side movement. This along with a 3-point hitch that would precisely hold a given position was a winning combination. Last year with a smaller tractor and no sway bars, about 30% of the edges didn't get covered in the same soil conditions. And finally, it’s imperative that the operator focus on driving as straight as possible. Anything other than minor course directions causes the rig to move dramatically from side-to-side.

That's vermicompost mixed with mychorrhizal fungi that Tara is placing in the holes along side the seedlings.
Note: For those concerned about our use of plastic, please read:
Mulching & Transplanting Hemp
We still had major issues with getting the edges of the plastic covered with soil this year. It was very wet again and the soil simply did not "flow" like it should. I suppose we could have rototilled the heck out of the soil to get it "fluffy" but we're just not willing to beat up the precious soil microbes. The microbes are so critical to plant health. It took a brutal day off hand raking in humid, sunny, 90F weather to get all the missed edges covered. Ugh.
We're on to "Plan D". The field we subsoiled is not useable. Subsoiling actually made the field much wetter. It's very odd. The second field that was done was much drier after. The surround land is just wetter around here and we got unlucky. We tried using this lightweight spreader that we purchased hoping to still use the same land to no avail.

We've move to the other end of the 10 acre organic field where the land is higher and are spreading our compost and getting ready to rototill in the rows. Come to find out that the guy we bought the tractor from misled us. The clutch is bad making the tractor worthless. As if hemp farming wasn't hard enough. I guess we're just too gullible. We come from a time when the phrase "my word is my bond" still meant something. It's a race to see if we can get the field ready. The plants are rapidly outgrowing their tiny tray cells.
The seedlings could go in the ground today but we're not ready. Yikes!
This hoop house pipe bender from Bootstrap Farmer was a bust. The radius of the jig was too large for the 1-3/8” pipe typically used to form the arch on hoop houses. We made numerous attempts to adjust the radius of this faulty tool that helped a lot but our pipes still had kinks in them. This whole exercise in frustration was exacerbated by our pre-drilling the pipes prior to bending.

We don’t know if the jig that had “12 ft.” written on it was improperly labeled, welded up wrong, or what. What we do know is that using the jig straight out of the box and as described in their videos was giving us 14-15 foot diameter hoops using 1-3/8” pipe.

At a 14-15 foot diameter, it took quite a bit of force to compress these too-wide arches down to the required 12 feet. So much so, that it was clear they would end up splaying open our ground pipes that stick 2 feet out of the ground - hence our attempts to reduce the diameter down to 12 feet. In the end, we sent this jig back with the hope that Bootstrap Farmer gets the message and makes improvements - we're sure they will. For those interested, here's the other video on this pipe bender:
We decided to keep our existing ground cover by using a drag harrow to level out all the clumps left after deep tilling. It's harder to get a new cover established later in spring after the hemp seedlings go in so we decided to put up with a few bumps and keep the existing cover. Keeping the field in cover crop supports good soil microbiology that is essential to plant health.

The seat suspension on the old Case 1490 tractor I borrowed was broken. Essentially, it was as if I was sitting right on the tractor frame. Going crisscross over the furrows was a teeth jarring experience especially since driving faster seemed to help with smoothing out the bumps. There were a few times I had to grab onto the fender to keep from being thrown about :) Such is the life of our small scale organic dairy farmers as they fight to nurture their land in the face of mega-farming with its lobbyists and life-diminishing practices.
Given the results of soil probing along with poorly draining low areas, we decided to break up the hard layer of compacted soil about 8" below the surface that is a result of all the heavy equipment used on the land over the decades. This is common problem with modern farming. The subsoiler shanks run deep and fracture this "hard pan" allowing plant roots and water to run deep.

Our cover crop got torn up pretty bad running the subsoiler. This 100hp tractor had a hard time in low range and 1st gear running the shanks at about 12" on the first pass. The second pass at 20" and was much easier. It's hard work undoing decades of soil compaction.

Some subsoiler models run a vertical disc (coulter) ahead of each shank to minimize this issue. The coulter slits the grass mat thereby preventing it from getting ripping up into large chunks. We made due with the equipment on hand but will need to run a drag to smooth out of soil. With a little additional seed, the cover that we always keep in place to feed the soil microbes will be just fine.

An alternative approach to breaking up a hard pan is to plant a cover with deep till radishes that have roots that run deep. This is being done in our corn and hay fields but takes time. We needed a solution in our hemp field for this upcoming season and deep tilling works well when the soil is moist but not wet (friable).

Using Subsoiling To Reduce Soil Compaction


Created 1 year, 2 months ago.

132 videos

CategoryDIY & Gardening

We care deeply about our land, about our planet, about the CBD hemp we grow. Practices that nurture soil biology in turn heal the land and produce robust plants with the fullest of entourage effects. We take great pride in our efforts to nurture the land under our care. Unlike so many other operations that make hollow claims of using “sustainable, ethical and organic farming practices” in a paragraph on their websites, we invite in everyone to see our operation first hand, to see we are more than just words on a page.

Soil biology is key to vibrant soils and robust plants. The starting point for Organic Entourage is our certified organic land. In addition, we continually work to improve our soils with the use of composted cow manure, compost teas, cover crops, benign pest/disease controls, and other restorative practices. Our goal is to go well beyond organic in our efforts to revitalize the soil micro-biology and rebuild organic matter.

For example, we use composted cow manure, from our organic dairy partners, on our hemp fields and pastures. This is unlike other organic operations that truck in manure tainted with the chemicals and drugs from conventional dairies, feed lots, and the like – a practice that is technically "organic" but clearly less than ideal. Likewise, we do not bring in specialty soil that is placed in large pots and is regularly discarded and replaced. Nor do we grow our plants on barren fields devoid of microbe sustaining vegetative growth. Similarly, we do not grow our plants indoors under artificial light in soilless mediums (hydroponics). While all of these practices technically qualify as being "organic", we believe it’s an imperative to do better.

We have also taken on the work of sharing what we learn and know with others. We do this as a way of educating potential consumers about what to look for in quality CBD hemp. We also do this to hopefully help and challenge other smaller scale growers. It is our conviction that a robust farming community is built from a network of smaller farms, not a handful of mega-farms.

Join us in brewing excellent compost tea proven out with microscopy, turning organic manure piles into excellent compost by monitoring pile temperatures, employing rotational grazing to keep cows healthy, and all the other works we do to heal the land by rejuvenating soil biology and growing CBD hemp with the fullest of entourage effects. Join us as responsible stewards of the land.

Thank you.