The gardens at Spellcast Farm have always been maintained without the use of pesticides or commercial fertilizers. While we cannot have the vegetables that are grown here certified as organic, they are naturally and sustainably grown and as of 2012, they are grown without any outside inputs except for the seeds. All of our seeds are heirloom and most are organic. We do not use any genetically modified seeds.
We use double-dug raised beds, gardening in a biodynamic or French intensive method. We have four 12 x 4 foot beds and four 6 x 3 foot beds in the main garden as well as a 6 x 3 foot herb bed located by the milk parlor.
The term "double-dug" or "double-digging" means that a deep trench is dug in the bed, some of the soil is removed from the trench and replaced with manure and other organic matter, the soil that is replaced is loosened with a spading fork. This process is repeated throughout the length of the bed which results in a bed that contains planting material that is very loose and friable with increased drainage and aeration. The roots of plants are able to grow much deeper and reach more nutrients. Of course, this is a tremendous amount of work and each season the beds are re-dug and more manure and organic material is added to maintain the structure of the soil.
We can grow a tremendous amount of vegetables in these beds and to date, the garden has been more of a jungle than an organized garden. That is essentially the intention of French intensive gardening: striving for the most yields from a small area. The only way this can be done, however, is by maintaining the soil with organic fertilizers and soil amendments, all provided by the Spellcast farm animals, especially the rabbits. The use of on-farm manure and soil amendments makes our gardening extremely sustainable. Up until 2012, we had to drive to other farms to get manure, but now it's available on the farm.
John Jeavons, author of How to Grow More Vegetables estimates that it is possible for an urban, suburban, or rural gardener to net as much as $10,000 a year from the produce that he or she could grow on a scant 1/10 acre! So far, we haven't managed that, but that's likely because the garden continues to kick Michelle's butt. She's mastered the fine art of raising dairy animals and pasturing rabbits, but the garden has not yet reached its full potential. To some extent this is due to extreme weather conditions, primarily high heat in the summer.
Our gardening methods use very little fuel and a lot less water than what is used in conventional gardening. Except for the one time we used soil from a packed-down pig enclosure, we do not till the beds using a gas-powered tiller. Instead, we dig the beds as described above. Because the vegetables are grown so close together (known as "living mulch") and the soil is well amended by soiled hay, straw, leaves, etc. it remains moist and very little supplemental water is necessary to maintain plant health. This living mulch also keeps the weeds down. In the past we've resorted to the use of a gas-powered weed whacker to clear the walk space between the beds of weeds, but with the addition of rabbits to the farm, we manually harvest a lot of these weeds to be used as rabbit food.
All of the vegetables grown at Spellcast are from heirloom and/or organic seeds. We grow a wide variety of seasonal vegetables and greens. Offerings will be detailed in our weekly mailing list.
Our products are available on the farm by appointment. We also make several deliveries to Hickory.