Fall is the Best Season

Fall is the Best Season

The best time of year is Fall. Is it because the air is cooler, the leaves are changing colours and falling, and Hallowe’en is on its way?

Not even close. Fall is the best time of year because it is the right time to take care of so many field operations. Some of them cannot be done anytime else.

Fall is the best time to get your soil tested. Except for nitrogen and sulphur, the other nutrients don’t move in the soil or leach over winter, so what is tested in the winter you can
assume to be present in the spring. Your recommended rates for nitrogen and sulphur are based more on crop removal than soil test levels, so unless you are engaging in a Nutrient Management Plan, part of an Environmental Farm Plan, don’t worry about them for now. Secondly, the soil testing labs are less busy than they are in the spring. Last, should the soil test indicate that your field has become too acidic, fall – being typically drier than spring – is a good time to apply limestone. Use the Plant Science Lab, located right at TerraLink in Abbotsford. We’re both fast and less expensive.

Fall is the best time to build up your soil. The fall is a very good time to bring up soil levels of nutrients that can be “stored” in the ground; those nutrients that don’t easily leach into the groundwater during winter. If your levels of potash or Magnesium are low, for example, now is a good time to apply those nutrients. TerraLink recommends 0-11-22 Fall Berry BlendMuriate of Potash 0-0-62, Sulphate of Potash 0-0-50+17(S), K-Mag 0-0-22+22(S)+11Mg.

Fall is the best time to apply limestone. There is a good reason for this. From an agronomic point of view it makes the most sense. What happens when limestone is applied to soil? In Fraser Valley soils there is an abundance of aluminum, which naturally reacts with water to produce hydrogen ions (H+). The presence of a concentration of H+ creates acidity.

When limestone (calcium carbonate) is added to the soil, some of the calcium replaces aluminum at the cation exchange sites. Meanwhile, some of the carbonate combines with hydrogen to produce water and carbon dioxide. This reaction is not instant, especially if the limestone has not been mixed into the soil. Typically, several months pass before the biggest change in pH takes place. If limestone is applied in the fall the pH should be increased just in time for fertilizing time in the spring. This is most important, since plants take up nutrients most effectively when soil pH is in the correct range.

Fall is the best time for weed control. Pull the big ones by hand, mow down the ones in the alleyways, clean out the weeds from within the row and apply Simazine, Devrinol or Casoron for long-term control.

Fall is the best time to plant cover crops. It never hurts to remind ourselves of the benefits of cover crops. There really are no disadvantages. Advantages include:

  • Build up organic matter
  • Improve soil structure
  • Reduces compaction
  • Capture excess nitrogen which helps prevent leaching loss
  • Competes with weeds
  • Helps prevent erosion by wind and water
  • In raspberries, a mat of cover crop provides a nice footing for workers
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