We are growing a 1/4 acre market garden this year, specializing in peas and beans. It is a good crop for us to grow in new ground, with limited compost. And it is a crop that fits well into our local food system. We met with the one local vegetable farmer, who goes to a few Farmer's Markets and transports a lot of produce in a hundred mile radius. He does not grow peas and beans, but they are always a good seller at a market stall, and he would be more than happy to buy as much as we can grow and sell them at the market. Mutually beneficial.
The Snow Peas, Shelling Peas and Green Beans are planted in new ground, turned from pasture last fall. We rock picked the field, then marked out our rows and laid down a light layer of well rotted compost, the peas in rows 30 inches apart,
and the beans in beds, with rows 12 inches apart. We tilled the compost in, and planted succession crops 10 days apart, with the first harvest coinciding with the opening of the market in the first week of July.
We till the rows a few times to work up the weed seeds and grass rhizomes, and allow the crops to get about 4 inches tall before mulching.
The beans were spaced to allow us to run the tiller over the row. The gap between the two sets of rotating tines is 4 inches wide, and these tines are well worn. With new tines, we would take the two inside tines off for cultivation. There is enough clearance below the tiller to do a few close cultivations while the beans are in 2 and 4 leaf stage. After that, we mulch and the beans are off to a good start. The other benefit of cultivating legumes in early growth, instead of smothering with mulch, is that cultivation aerates the soil, and legumes fix nitrogen from the air. We always notice an inch of growth after cultivating.
For mulch, we are using leftover green leafy hay. We are not too worried about spreading weed seeds, as they are easy to cultivate out of the soil, and the majority of the seeds will rot as the mulch decomposes this summer. The benefit of using hay, over using straw, is the protein contained in the clover, dandelion, vetch and grass leaves. Protein is broken down into nitrogen, enriching our soil, and at the same time adding humus. When we lay down the hay, we shake out the "flakes" to spread it evenly, and the protein rich, fine leaf chaff settles against the soil, while the stalky stems stay on top, retaining moisture and smothering weeds. When I lifted the mulch to check the moisture retention, I found lots of worms already working on the mulch, as you can see the worm casting in the middle of the picture below.