RicelandMeadows


Rye Cover Crop
May 22, 2017, 10:05 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

ryecover

May 22, 2017

This photo shows the cover crop of  cereal rye on our garden this spring. This seed is also known as annual rye. It is grown for grain for flour and for whiskey. I plant it here in late fall, September even into October. It actually grew to waist high before I got it mowed down. I mowed it with the weedeater. Usually, I just plow it under. The wet weather made the fast growing crop too rank to plow down. Once the garden was dry enough to plow, my schedule had changed, so we mowed it. Today, I could have plowed it, but am housebound recovering from pneumonia!

Using a cover crop, even in a small scale like on my garden, makes sense. The growing plants hold soil in place, stopping erosion. They suppress weeds, both in the late autumn as well as, in early spring. They “mine” minerals and nutrients out of the ground. These “mined” materials are given up by the decaying plant. Those become available to the growing plants, in a form ready for use. I will caution that decay uses soil nitrogen, so if the cover crop gets too big, like mine did this year, additional nitrogen may need to be added.

In the case of a heavy nitrogen feeder like corn (maize), you could actually set the plants back by the rich cover crop. My garden soil is well balanced. There is plenty of nitrogen available, so I am not worried. If this was a new garden spot, too much decaying plant material can almost starve the growing crop. Compost added, has already decayed, so if the carbon balance is correct, the nitrogen in the compost is stable and stays in the soil until needed by the growing crop.

You can offset the effects of a thick, heavy cover crop in its decay cycle, by adding more compost. You can add commercial fertilizer too or in place of the compost, but I choose to use compost only on our food crops. I have used commercial fertilizers, but only when soil tests demand it. I’d rather farm with nature and the balance she provides.

The mowed rye plants have dried in the sun. The hollow stems are soaking up rain water and decaying a bit. Incorporating them into the soil as soon as possible is the order of the day. I hope to beat the coming rain and have the garden plowed by chore time Wednesday. Farming is a wonderful life. It is an ongoing chemistry lesson. The cycle of life spins daily and I love the ride!



Cover Ups
September 17, 2015, 4:51 pm
Filed under: September 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Garden beds ready for winter

Garden beds ready for winter

September 17, 2015

It has been a hectic week so far. The garden beds have been all cleaned off, worked up and planted to a cover crop. This year I chose oats. The oats will grow well until about Thanksgiving time. They will then die back and provide a winter mulch layer for the otherwise exposed soil. When spring gets here, the oat mulch is easily worked into the beds at planting time.

I have used rye, wheat and spelt for winter cover. These plants grow much of the winter and early spring. They provide plenty of organic matter to till in the spring. I chose oats this year because the beds are full of composted material already and I am hoping for an early spring warm up in the raised beds. It will be nice to get off to an early gardening start.

My favorite summer cover crop for garden and field is buckwheat. This plant provides much weed suppression. It is hollow stemmed and incorporates easily at plow down time. It is also a great soil miner. It makes many micro nutrients available for the following crop. It mines the soil, then gives it up when dead and rotting in the soil. The bees and other pollinators love the flowering blossoms of buckwheat making this plant a win-win for everyone involved 😮