Larimer County, vegetable farm

Goals/Strategic Objectives

Property #1:

  1. Improve soil quality and water holding capacity.
  2. Understand actual ditch water consumption for all users on the property.
  3. Identify short- and long-term practices and strategies to both increase efficiency in water use and to improve soil quality for a time when more of the property is being actively farmed by more producers.

Property #2:

  1. Improve soil quality and water holding capacity.
  2. Track actual municipal water usage for irrigation and precipitation received.
  3. Identify short- and long-term practices to improve soil quality, including water retention and erosion prevention, for a time when more of the property may be farmed.

Inventory

  • Average annual precipitation: 15.9″
    • All time high annual precipitation: 25.2″
    • Typically greater than 2″ of rain per month April through July
  • Growing season temperatures range from 18 degrees (April) to 96 degrees (July) Fahrenheit
  • Last frost: approx. May 4th
  • First frost: approx. October 2nd
  • Ditch flow info:
    • Surface water starts mid to late May and runs for as little as a few weeks or as long as mid-August
    • Could have ditch water running until September 30th. Then use water in storage pond

Potential future conditions

Strategies for increasing drought preparedness

  • Soil moisture and water quality tracking- 2023 and forward
    • Track rain gauge info in rain log
    • Invest in a soil moisture probe
    • Track percent organic matter via soil tests
  • Water quality testing for retention pond- 2023 and forward, monthly
  • Track water use for property #1- July 2023 and continue to monitor
    • Create log- track municipal and pond water use
      • Order a meter for 2″ pumped water line to begin tracking
      • Order two 3/4″ meters for property #2 water lines
      • Meter available for property #1 municipal water use
    • Use irrigation timers to manage watering schedule and total water
  • Plan drought tolerant cover crops on currently unfarmed acres- determine CC mix by mid- August 2023 to be prepared for seeding fall covers on or before September 1st
    • Water well for good germination
    • Spot weed until they can out-compete other weeds

Timeline

Critical decision-making dates

  • April 1st through May 15th: check snow water equivalent data and consult the ditch rider to understand what amount of water will be in the system for the ditches.
  • September 1st: last date to establish cover crops. If not established, mulch with available organic material such as straw or leaves.
  • Weekly: monitor rain gauges
  • May and October, annually: perform soil tests
  • Monthly: test irrigation pond

Strategies for managing during drought

  • Reduce water requirement by favoring transplanted crops that are irrigated on drip systems, as opposed to direct seeded crops on overhead.
  • Use conservation agriculture practices such as:
    • Reducing tillage,
    • Using silage tarps for stale seedbed,
    • Select drought tolerant cover crops and local mulches, and
    • Mulch with straw, leaves, or a heavy layer of compost to reduce moisture losses via evapotranspiration (works for transplants but not direct seeded crops).
  • Favor transplanted crops over direct seeded crops to reduce water requirements for germination.
  • Use shade cloth to reduce heat burden on crops and surrounding soil and interplant crops to improve growing conditions if able.
  • Use irrigation timers to manage watering schedule and total water use.
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