From the Seed to the Cup – New Cover Crop
It’s been a really great season, having had regular rain this Spring. After the usual dry winter months and early spring storms brewing, bringing worry of hail, we say thank you to soft, spring rain, not too little, not too much.
Farm work is in full swing with loads of jobs to do now harvest time has finished. As shared in other blogs, we look after our soil in lots of ways. One is by planting cover crops for biodiversity, soil health, and of course our pollinating friends. The winter cover crop was in full flower for early spring, with the mustards, canola, buckwheat and vetch attracting the ‘good guys’ – our stingless native bees, European honey bees, lady bugs, wasps, hover flies. See Entomologist Christopher Carr from SCU Organics inspecting the trial blocks; registering what friends (and foes?) we are attracting with our flowering cover crop plantings. There are no real ‘foes’ in the bug community for our Arabica coffee plants here in subtropical NSW – how good is that! Fingers crossed it stays that way with our cooler coffee growing conditions and plant diversity distracting ( or at least not encouraging) any nasty behaving bugs – so they choose to go elsewhere and not attack our coffee. Naturally pesticide free, is the way we like it, and wish to keep it that way. No nasty sprays on our coffee crop, ever.
After the Spring Harvest we do the following:
1. Trim Coffee Trees – We are on 50 acres/ 18 hectares of land here in the hills behind Byron Bay. With 40 000 trees to trim, it is slow and will take a few weeks for the tractor with its French pruner blades to mooch along slowly at 2km/hour, up and down the rows. Thankyou Nigel for the loud, slow progress across the farm.
2. Mulch up the tree trimmings – How do we deal with all those cut branches? Mulching on the spot, in the rows is not as easy as we’d like as branches can get caught up under the tractor, wrecking stuff (hydraulics and electrical bits – expensive stuff down there). So, we are pushing some branches into piles and then either chipping them, or placing them in a big pile in a gully where we will add soil and compost on top and then wait for it all to break down over a couple of years. Turning ‘waste’ into goodness with time and nature’s help.
3. Compost to Feed Soil – We think we’ll sneak some aged compost out on at least one block early,; expecting the organic goodness will help the trees bounce back healthier. All the fruit skins from the spring coffee harvest and processing waste are now mixed in with chook manure, hemp seed husk and wood chip, creating huge compost piles that time and turning will help form beautiful organic rich life for our trees, next year.
4. Coffee Flowers Bloom – The flowers bloom in November/ December – its really quite special – with jasmine like fragrance filling the air. We love this time of the year, and hope for a white Christmas like 2020! We will share more flower pics as they come. We have already had a touch of coffee flowering, whilst looking forward to more flowers blooming over the month of December.
5. Coffee Fruit – After setting flowers, the coffee fruit slowly develops all year until the ‘Spring Harvest’ time of October/ November. In our cool for coffee climate, we find the fruit takes a solid 10 months to ripen – which is relatively long compared to other coffee nations. The extra time develops extra sweetness along the way. Read more: Cool Coffee, Sweet Coffee blog here.
So, What happens to the cover crop?
The cover crops grow over a 3 month period, putting down their roots to draw up and help transfer nutrients, the bees and friends have pollinated and found the flowers, and we allow some late flowers to go to seed, to encourage re-emergents popping up naturally. Bec will pick some seeds to save and re-plant (mostly radish and mustard), and then we will mow the crop in, to return the biology, the nutrients back to the soil. Then prepare to plant some more! Summer plantings of cover crop mix – going in soon. –