Sustainable Farming Methods
Hügelkultur (German pronunciation: [ˈhyːɡl̩kʊlˌtuːɐ̯]) “is a horticultural technique where a mound constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials is later (or immediately) planted as a raised bed. Adopted by permaculture advocates, it is suggested the technique helps to improve soil fertility, water retention, and soil warming, thus benefiting plants grown on or near such mounds.” (From Wikipedia)
At Lane Creek Reserve, we practice permaculture with emphasis on regenerative practices. Our systems are forever evolving but we have found great success thus far and are continuing to learn and educate ourselves daily. Currently our model and grow spaces rather for food, flowers or industrial hemp, are all grown in Hügelkultur Beds. Our hemp crop is set on a contour for the preservation and retention of water, all while collecting and sequestering carbon into the soil. With the application of heavy green or biomass material, we have created berms that have proven to be worth their weight in fertile gold.
Planting alongside foliage like comfrey, garlic, fava beans, legumes, onions, daikon radishes and potatoes, contributes massively to the nutrient and microbial life of the soil. Not only are these crops beneficial for the farmer, but they sequester carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere, both cleansing the air and feeding the soil. When these crops are chopped and dropped onto the beds, they are covered with a barn cake (a mixture of manure and hay) and mulch. This allows the soil life to work these materials, making the nutrients of the plants and manure bioavailable to the growing plant life.
This rich, fertile garden space then became the nucleus of fertility for our land and allowed for us to grow and expand the fertility throughout the farm. When we first started to build our farm and our systems, the days were spent moving biomass materials all over the place. We were moving materials in, moving manure all around and adjusting our infrastructure accordingly. As we’ve become familiar with the natural cycles and needs of the property, we’ve been able to stabilize and get into the rhythm of the land.
The stability of our systems allows us to have a fertile and thriving home base set of gardens, so we can now take these systems and begin to implement them around the farm. This spring we’ve introduced 5 new growing spaces, which have been planted out with perennial and annual plants, and will grow in harmony with our mycelium network and the legumes and alliums.
We began our rotational grazing program with a small herd of cattle in 2018. We began researching ways to phase out thistle and undesirable grasses, all while providing a rehabilitation program for the soil. Prior to our purchase of Lane Creek reserve, the 40 acres was free-range cattle land which was overgrazed and never allowed the much needed time for root development of healthy native grasses.
In our first year of rotational and intentional grazing, we found that the soil and perennial grasses were thriving. The ideal pasture has active and living soil which is the foundation for building a strong network of nutrient dense forage. When grazed at the proper phase of growth, energy is forced back into the root system. While the cattle are actively grazing, good hay is also supplemented in target areas to draw the cattle to these areas. As they eat the hay, they are trampling the undesirable areas, opening the land up and depositing manure. Depending on the time of year and the allotted space you have put them on, we will rotate cattle daily, or every other day.
Being cautious of the grass growth phase is key, understanding that in spring, the grasses are coming out of dormancy. After being harvested or cut short, these grasses are tender, succulent and very high in nutritional quality. The cows prefer this grass over any other, so they will graze hardest on these young grasses. Allowing the pasture to rest or recover after phase one is very important for the root and foundation of the grasses. Without a rest period after phase one, cattle will keep grazing the short spots seeking that phase one grass. The result of this will be a stressed crop, spending all of its energy to sprout small blades to support the need for growth, and weakening the roots.
Phase two grass, which is the ideal for a healthy pasture, would be resting after grazing, producing new grasses, shading the roots and younger under grass. Seed shoots will be visible, but short. At this point, growth slows dramatically while the grass enters phase three, which would be tall and what would be cut for hay. Understanding when the grasses are “as big as they will get” and knowing how to identify seeding and cutting for hay is also imperative.
We have seen great success with our rotational grazing program, and look forward to introducing more pastures in the early spring. Stay tuned for more information or feel free to contact us if you would like to come to the farm and see it first hand.
To water the crop and animals we use our own water rights which comes from Lane Creek. It’s a very clean quality and natural water source, and we are very conscious of building the watershed on our property to allow the land to retain and preserve water. We are working toward a “closed loop system,” which means everything comes from our land, covering our needs and those of the animals. Through integrity and commitment, we are diligent with building these systems, protecting and providing the best lives for our animals, and highest fertility for our crop and land.
It is common in permaculture farming to take a year of observing the natural patterns and cycles of your property, to see how the land thrives and struggles through all four seasons. This gives you time to observe and learn about your property and how it needs and wants to be worked. While observing the needs and wants of the land, we were able to build out a gravity-fed irrigation system, providing water to the areas of the farm that needed it the most. As Southern Oregon farmers, we now know that the dry season is no joke, and the water table is a critical component to have a successful crop.
Our water is not only in high demand for crops, but for our animals too. Ensuring that all animals have access to irrigated grass and potable water has been a challenge.
In addition to providing water, we have also spent time building aquatic zones throughout the land which is safe for fish, frogs and a variety of aquatic, oxygenating plants. Our vision for expanding these zones are forever developing, so keep an eye on our updates!
Polyculture is a form of agriculture in which more than one species is grown at the same time in the same place, imitating the diversity of a natural ecosystem. By allowing the crop to have access to the carbon, recycled green materials, fungal networks and the native life of the garden, it can grow strong and healthy without requiring any store bought nutrients or synthetic inputs.
In most of our berms you will find a combination of perennial and annual crops. Flowers, food, herbs and tubers provide food for the above- and the below-ground life. Annually we plant onions, garlic, annual flowers and veggies, and also have a solid foundation of perennial life established. Our essentials include comfrey, fava beans (these re-seed) California poppies, potatoes, peonies and daisies.
Each of these perennials offer either a root system, which is a tasty treat for the underground network of life, or flowers and nectar for our pollinators. After the carbon boom, some native grasses and comfrey are chopped down, in preparation for the next phase of planting. We will leave the chopped material in place to again provide food and nutrient material for the soil.
Annually we try to introduce new crops to add value to the soil makeup, and keep the beds thriving for more!
Lane Creek is DEM Pure Certified
DEM Pure certification ensures that farms are giving back to the earth through their natural growing methods and giving back to their community through educational engagement