By Richard Robinson, Farmer at Hopestill Farm
For me, the arrival of the NOFA bulk order is, like the arrival of the seed catalogs, a harbinger of spring, and an opportunity to stock up on things I know I will use all season long. The bulk order also appeals to the Yankee in me, because I know I will get great prices, especially with the member discount, and loading up my pick-up with a season’s worth of soil amendments feels like thrift rewarded. There are hundreds of items to choose from, for the back yard or the back 40. Here are some favorites of NOFA farmers this year:
- SulPoMag (aka K-Mag). One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past decade is the importance of potassium for great fruit production. If you’ve got tomatoes with yellow shoulders, or your fruit is not filling out like you remember it used to, chances are your soil has, like mine did, gotten low on potassium. SulPoMag, also called K-Mag, is a natural mineral that supplies both potassium and magnesium (also prone to depletion in intensive vegetable production). Check your soil test results to see if you need some. Have plenty of magnesium? You can order potassium sulfate instead.
- Pro-Hemp 5-3-9. This is a blended organic fertilizer specifically formulated for hemp growing. It can be spread in bulk for field sowing or added to the transplant hole if you are transplanting your plants.
- Tomato stakes. Field-grown tomatoes need staking, and Laura Davis, of Long Life Farm, notes that stakes aren’t always easy to find locally. That’s why she relies on the bulk order to stock up for the year. If you haven’t seen the speed demons on YouTube zipping down the row doing their Florida weave, check out this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm7TxaMnvKo
- Monterey Garden Spray (Spinosad). I have not yet had a year without potato beetles, and while I begin the season with row cover and then hand pick when the larvae show up, most years I need to use a spray to keep my yields up. One farmer I know recommends one year of Bt, the next year of Spinosad, and the third year moving to a distant field. (I forgot to order mine through the bulk order last year, and was very disappointed with the results from the same product obtained from a local shop; I’m guessing it was not stored properly before sale.)
- AEA products. The bulk order features a good selection of products from Advancing Eco Agriculture, leaders in the field of regenerative agricultural solutions, and founded by John Kempf, 2019’s Winter Conference Keynote speaker. Julie Rawson, NOFA’s executive director, says “I like that I can get my AEA products from the bulk order because they do such wonderful things to boost fertility.”
- BioCoat Gold. Laura Davis especially likes AEA’s BioCoat Gold seed inoculant, a blend of seaweed, concentrated humic substances and other nutrients, “not only at seeding time on seeds, but also in transplant drench to give seedlings their best opportunity to synergize with mycorrhizal fungi.”
- Bushel baskets. Tried and true, Julie uses these for multiple crops in the root cellar, including carrots, beets, potatoes, garlic and onions.
- Low-cost nitrogen. The bulk order offers several organic sources of nitrogen, including alfalfa meal, blood meal, feather meal, and others. Blood meal is a quick-release source, often used early while the soil is cold. The others are slower to break down, offering a more even source of N through the season. I choose my slow-release N based on cost per pound of N (not per pound of the supplement itself). Some years that’s feathers, some years it’s cottonseed, some years it’s something else.
If you’re ready for your best year yet, order from the NOFA Tri-State Bulk Order- open NOW through January 31.