Preparing your land for crop farming? Here’s what you’ll need to do

You could own a large or humble plot of land, regardless, there is an opportunity for you to get into the crop farming business. Whether you want to make it a completely commercial farm or simply a homegrown-grocery adventure next to the family home, this article will give you the lowdown on what you need to do to prepare it for successful yields.

Everyone needs to start somewhere and where better to start than on the actual land itself? You’ve bought the plot, you’ve designed what needs to go where and now it’s time to get started.

Clear the land

Start by taking a good look at your plot. Are there any structures, trees, rocks, debris or other objects that will be in the way of your farming efforts? Yes? Then it’s time to bulldoze, cut down and remove them all. When there’s nothing left but land, you can turn to Radium Engineering (http://www.radium.co.za/) for the grading and tilling equipment you’re going to need.

First, you’ll want to level the land with a grader and make sure everything is the way you need it to be to plant your crops. Then you’re going to need to dig and till your crop-farming area. There are different ways to till your land, but some of the reasons why you’ll want to use a conservational tillage method (which still requires equipment) is because:

  • It’s better for your soil tilth and, therefore, better encourages plant roots.
  • It encourages more organic matter in the soil by maintaining necessary carbon levels.
  • It increases the soil’s water retention ability by holding water.
  • It allows the soil and the water in the soil to increase its nutrient content.

As for digging your land, it’s just another means of working the land to a certain depth as a means to allow for drainage and deeply rooted crop roots.

Sort out the soil

Now, we’ve already mentioned the soil quite a bit, but there’s a lot more to the soil than what tilling can do and it’s crucial that you sort out your soil before you can do any kind of farming.

  • Test: You need to test your soils PH level as it will affect the type of crops you’re able to grow. You also need to test the soil structure to get an idea of the type of soil you’ll be dealing with. Ideally, your soil needs to be almost granular as that indicates drainage abilities and an aerated soil (which your soil needs).
  • Till: The benefits of conservation tilling on soil have already been discussed. But what hasn’t been discussed are the potential negative effects of conventional tilling on the soil and crop yield. Conventional tillage systems do more damage to the soil than good by eroding the soil and decreasing the nutrient and water-holding properties that are vital to a healthy soil.
  • Organic matter: The next step is to add organic matter to your soil. Organic matter is the nutrient, fertility and water-retention lifeline for your soil. And all it takes is a little look around to find the organic matter your soil needs. Decaying plants and decomposing animal matter may be a gross concept, but it’s one your soil loves. Regardless of your soil type, by adding organic matter you’ll be improving the structure, drainage and nutrients significantly and you will be rewarded when harvest day comes around.  

Make your mulch

Mulch counts as organic matter, but needs to be discussed separately in order to elaborate on exactly what it is and how it works. Mulch is great for preventing evaporations and therefore helping the soil retain moisture. It regulates temperatures and can even function as a weed-moderator. There are different types of mulch that you can make, but we’ll be looking at the more common types.

  • Leaf mulch: Using leaves to make mulch is a great way to clear the yard as well as protect your soil. Rake up your leaves, shred them with a lawn mower or rotary cutter and then your leaf mulch is ready to be spread on top of your soil. It’s important to use mulch made from organic materials as soon as possible (store any extra mulch in a ventilated holding to be used sooner rather than later). Because it’s organic, it will, eventually, be absorbed into the soil and provide the much-needed nutrients.   
  • Bark mulch: Bark is an example of an inorganic material (as well as stone) that can be used as mulch to help the soil underneath retain its water content and remain moist. It won’t, however, decompose and enrich the soil as quickly as leaves would. What you could do is combine both wood and leaves to create a doubly beneficial mulch that will both last and enrich the soil.
  • Compost: It’s fairly simple to create your own compost heaps that can be layered over your soil and do everything that mulch is supposed to do. Take your scraps from the kitchen and around the farming area and combine them with water to build your compost stores. It’s affordable, convenient for waste management and rich in the nutrients your soil is longing for.

Now that your land, soil and mulch is ready, it’s time to plant your seeds and begin your crop farming journey!