How we Grow
Digging and Design
All our beds are separated by permanent paths we trench, covered with weed mat and then mulched. The mulch recycles tree removal waste, assists in suppressing weeds, and maintains moisture in the adjacent beds. We do not spend our time rebuilding our beds every year or redesigning spaces. The beds are exactly 48 inches which allows for easy reach for a person from either side of path. We do not spend time wasting amendments or causing nutrient run off with paths because they are permanent. We employ hand techniques such as double digging. This technique involves the loosening of two layers of soil, and the addition of organic matter.
No Till / Conservation Tilling Practices
Conservation tilling increases the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil and increases organic matter retention and cycling of nutrients in the soil. This type of soil management is proven to prevent soil erosion and soil compaction. These practices also maintain the diversity of life and organisms which improves the soil biological fertility making the soils more resilient.
Carbon sequestration and fossil fuels
No tilling increases carbon in the soil and the use of our cover crops which we process into compost and return to the soil also contributes to carbon sequestering. Our elimination of using machinery such as tractors or tillers also mitigates our use of fossil fuels.
Conservation of Water Resources and Nutrient Recycling Irrigation
Our farms are irrigated by drip tape. Our drip system saves water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly and directly to the roots of plants. This system of watering directly to the root zone minimizes evaporation and conserves water that is lost from overhead watering systems. Our water application efficiency is high as we check our lines as an almost daily ritual and we reduce fertilizer and nutrient leaching from our soils.
At our largest site, the farm land and entire adjacent living complexes drain into a detention pond that was designed with perennials and fruit trees. The detention pond is also important for protection against flooding. We installed a wash shed in 2017 for cleaning and processing our produce and built in a French drain. The French drain takes water from the vegetable processing and feeds it into two of our large beds.
Approximately half an acre of land at our largest site was a giant hill that was slated to be removed and given to us. The entire half acre is terraced, and we employ permaculture systems of berms and swales. The concept behind a terraced system is that when it rains the nutrients are not washed away but instead carried to the next level. Swales compliment this system because they are in a way ditches that help retain or at least slow down the movement of water. We are a unique example of a terraced farm area in Denver.
We plant the beds with cover crops in the fall such as winter wheat, clover, vetch and peas. These crops protect and enrich our soil, prevent soil erosion and water runoff and improve the soil structure.
Straw and Mulch
This helps protect our soils, prevents moisture loss, suppresses weeds and composts into nutrients for our soil.
We companion plant for nutrient recycling such as beans and corn and weed suppression such as squash with beans and corn (the three sisters). Our three sisters beds are a favorite on tours and classes because it is an accessible way if understanding symbiotic relationships. It also allows a way to increase agricultural yields and forces us to constantly think about relationships between different plants.
We encourage growing diverse cultivars of plants and educating people on the different benefits. Instead of only growing orange carrots, we grow a rainbow of colors and cultivate over thirty varieties of tomatoes on our farms. We grow almost only heirloom varieties and focus on seed saving.