Prepping for winter starts early here at the ranch. Along with the winter oats we plant, the cows will eat one large bale of hay every day from December to March. That’s about 90 bales of hay! Fortunately our summer annual grass (Bahai) is very prolific in the spring time and we are able to make some hay with it.
In years past I would spread conventional fertilizer in March to give the grass a boost and ensure I had a thick hay crop. I’ve never been really happy with conventional fertilizer. Our soil is super sandy here and I think much of the fertilizer just gets flushed away with our heavy spring rains. That’s a waste of money of course, but it also adds to over nitrification of our waterways which contributes to algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico.
So this year I had 88 tons of chicken litter spread onto the pasture - and my hay crop doubled! It took longer for the fertilizer to have an effect, but it seems to have longer staying power. Instead of the instant flush you get conventional fertilizer, I’ve been seeing a steady thickening of the grasses. Another benefit is that there seems to be fewer weeds.
Of course there are lots of variables that could account for the better hay crop I’m seeing (rain being the biggest), but I’m pretty sure the additional organic matter from the chicken litter is part of it. I’m also thinking that the soil biology has improved too. Plants need microbes to convert the soil nutrients into readily available chemicals that the grasses can take up through their roots. Conventional fertilizer skips the microbes as the Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K) is readily available to the plants - thus cutting out the microbes. But by cutting out the microbes, you’re effectively starving them (and perhaps burning them). So when the added N, P, K is all gone, the plants have no natural foods available.
I’ll be able to confirm my hypothesis this summer when the high temps and droughts hit us. I’m betting that the improved soil health will improve root development and the added organic matter will help hold moisture, thus keeping the grasses during the long days of summer.
Pfarmers Market returns for regular season with a new location
The Pflugerville Pfarmers Market is returning with pfresh produce, meat and homemade goods, starting May 11 on every Tuesday from 3-7 p.m. through October 26. Due to construction on Old Austin Hutto Road, the market will be located at Pflugerville First United Methodist Church (500 E. Pecan Street) throughout the regular market. Just enter through the main entrance, and we will be set up in the back parking lot.
The Elgin Farmers Market is a year-round market that will remain open every Thursday. Pre-orders are encouraged.
The Taylor Farmers Market is a year-round market that will is open every Saturday. Pre-orders are encouraged. Live music most Saturday's from 11 -1.
NEW AT THE MARKET!
Black Diamond Authority is offering classes every Saturday ranging from painting to ceramics to comic book illustration and shoe art.