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Dryland Covercrops  RSS feed

 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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I'm looking for recommendations for cover cropping. We need to
1) increase organic matter and nitrogen
2) grow greens for chickens/ducks

We don't have a well and are hauling water. Our storage tanks don't generate much water pressure, so I don't see how we'd irrigate a pasture. Since the dry season here runs from about April to October, and it gets pretty hot, I'm looking for plants that are OK with a summer drought. Total precipitation runs around 25 inches annually, and we usually have a snow cover for much of December and January.

For those of you familiar with Washington/Oregon, our climate is like Yakima/Spokane - a bit warmer and wetter, and less sunny, in the winter, or similar to Hood River, except a bit colder/dryer in the winter.

This land has been logged and overgrazed - the soil is a silty clay, basalt bedrock about 4-6 feet down. The land is trying to heal itself with lupines - one species growing under the trees, three others out in the open areas. As far as I can tell, all the grasses we have are weedy pasture types, both annual and perennial. We have good reproduction of ponderosa pine and oregon white oak, so I think the mineral content and balance of the soil is probably OK.

So what species/varieties do you think I should try?





 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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These get out of control easily, but you might consider broom.

Fixes nitrogen, puts down taproots, doesn't produce much in the way of greens but bears ridiculous numbers of seeds plus some straw.  Also makes yellow dyeChickens are among the few ways to control them: most birds aren't thorough enough with the gizzard work.

Aside from weediness, they have a couple other drawbacks: they acidify soil, and they encourage/benefit from fire.

Since lupine is doing well, you might add some sweet lupine.  Chickens can stand some of the wild lupine seed; sweet varieties will hybridize in and make the next generation of wild lupines on your land better for the chickens, though you might have to control your breeding stock to keep a sweet variety around.

There are clay/drought-adapted varieties of buckwheat out there...I just bought one recently, haven't really evaluated it yet.

Edit:  As to greens, Parietaria judaica does fine here in Oakland with 18 inches annual rainfall.  I've read chickens will graze on in preferrentially, ducks enjoy it too, and it can stand a fairly quick grazing rotation.  It is also a very weedy species, not to be introduced unless you're sure you can control it.  It also may need a warmer climate than you have.
 
rose macaskie
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    I think that the fact that meadow plants dry in summer does not stop them being a cover crop they isolate the ground from the sun.

    Some grasses are annuals but lots aren't, bamboos for example are grasses and lots of tender grasses have a longish life span.
      If you fertilise your fields use ducks on them without letting them overgraze them your own plants might better or you could grow sting ing nettles and make stinging nettle or comfrey fertiliser,j stinging nettles gfrow were people relieve themselves ecological and cheap if you are not shy. Then your own grasses would cover better and return the soil to a climax state sooner. I would even think of using a bit of chemical fertiliser to get things really going.

    I have a book on meadow plants and it says that a real old fashioned meadow should not be fertilised the ground does not need a lot of nitrogen to maintain real old fashioned meadow plants many of which don't like ground that is too rich i suppose but overgrazing can be such as to have reduced the fertility of the land so much that it will not even nourish meadow plants, then you need to add a bit of something as the quickest way to reestablish things.

    A great advantage of meadow plants that dry in summer is that they don't compete with trees for water and nutrients in this season AND -:
    Their summer dry leaves and roots hold the soil together and serve as a mulch and organic material when they rot.and as they revive they provide a lwhole lot of new material.

  This is very important for those who want to change desertification
      Most grasses revive after dying back in the cold or dry season they aren't annuals as crops such as wheat and oats are.
        Below, I describe their systems for survival. It is important to know them to stop live stock from eating them right down and doing for their possibility for regrowth when it rains.  Not knowing them may be a reason for desertification.
 
  Some grasses are geofitos  "Raunkiaer's life form scheme" which you can find in wikelpedia, for example. They revive when the cold or dry hot season is over from buds on their roots, rhizomes, putting out new leaves and roots and some are hemicryptofits they revive from buds at ground level.
      The simple method of dying right back except for a lot of buds often protected by dry leaves does not seem to as good a protection as keeping your viable bits underground but it is the system of most types of meadow plants in cold regions and of masses of the hot weather meadow plants too, both grasses and other meadow plants, plantagos lanceolatas, daisies and dandelions, for example, use.

      The leek has lots of buds at ground level, you can see them when you strip the leaves off them. I have a foto of the ground level bud of a artemisa, they dry in winter and stay green in the four months of dry hot Spanish summer, which seems strange to me. The photo is of a stem in winter with its ground level bud.

    My Spanish book on botany, "Initiacion a la Botanica", morfologia externa, by Puis font y Quer, though the part I mention, on Raunkiaer, is one added by the editor of this edition, Oriol de Bolos, says that plants of this type, principalmente graminoides, grasses, are dominant in alpine ,pastures, lower ones and in the scrub lands and in more tropical regions with a dry season, it is a bit hard to translate all Oriol de Bolos, the editor of this book's, definitions of the geographical regions, i am not good enough at geographical terminology. It sounds like just about everywhere.
        He says that many species of, poa, festuca, and carex, etc., different families of grasses are hemicryptophytes.
      In Raunkiaer's scheme, Trees, with leaves way above ground level that get lost as a way of getting through a bad season are phanerophytes.

      That some grasses have buds at ground level is important it means that cropping the Field too low or cropping the pastures when they have dried normal in some parts here may destroy their ability to recover, it may do for the buds that are waiting for the rains to recover.

        I post a photo of a bud at the foot of an artemis. i don't have a list of hemicriptofits but this sure looks as if the part that has not died down is at ground level and so it must be one. agri rose macaskie
yemas-tierra..jpg
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Jennifer Smith
Posts: 715
Location: Zone 5
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First thing that comes to my mind is clovers, so many kinds some wpuld it the bill.  I know there is a big red one that grows in Alabama where lespadesa dies.  We can grow several kinds of clover here, some are quite tall here in zone 5b. 

Oh and I just saw some pretty weeds that would fix nitrogen.  Look to native plants and weeds.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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the suggestions by others sound good..another quick growing pasture is rye..a lot of farmers plant rye overwinter here in Michigan..not sure if it is too late to get it in or not but doesn't seem like it would be..takes a little over a week to sprout.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I haven't read all the posts, so I don't know if anyone has already mentioned alfalfa, but it survives just fine without irrigation.  It will produce more with some water, but doesn't need irrigation to survive.  We have quite a bit in our yard, which we don't water, and we are in a similar climate, although with only 17" average precipitation per year, and of course nearly all of that comes in the winter.

Kathleen
 
rose macaskie
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I would not know how to buy buck wheat or cow peas, so i just went to a sort of agriculture shop that sells bird seed , i think i bought, oats, wheat, poppy seeds, and sunflower seeds. I also went to my health food shop and brought sesame seeds and gopji berries to plant and got a packet of lentils and chickpeas and beans from the supermarket and have been throwing all these seeds around, abandoning, without thinking hard, my old interest, to see what would come up as the soil got better without planting anything myself.  I will have feed the mice and ants.agri rose macaskie.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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Rose..last spring i had a lot of old seeds that hadn't been used up from my collection of garden seeds..they were old..so i had a open area of tilled soil and i threw them all out and raked them in..they were odds and ends of corn, radish..greens, peas, etc..and only a couple of radish seeds produced...as you said about the critters..i think the birds ate everything !! which was a real shock as i expected at least the corn to sprout..there was a gob of it..and it was raked in.
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Thanks for the suggestions, I am going to do some serious mulling. I like the idea of trying some other species of lupine, and seeing whether hybrids result. Although I think the ones I have now must be resistant to hybridizing, I don't think I've ever seen so many lupine species growing in one small area before.

Some of the ground I am concerned about has a soil crust on it, from rain beating on bare spots I am sure, I've noticed that this soil reacts badly to being pelted. More organic matter on the surface is definitely called for. I also like the scattershot idea, a good use for those outdated ad cheap seed packets the nurseries are trying to dump this time of year!
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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If you're worried about birds eating them all, you might try using seedballs.

http://fukuokafarmingol.info/fover.html#ov18

That article mentions red pepper, which unfortunately does not work on birds.  I've read concord grape juice does work to repel them, though.

 
rose macaskie
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I whatched a bit of Fukoakas video on youtube about maiking seed balls and as i could not understand the japanese and was not learning much from just whatching i stopped or at least gave it up for a day when i had the patients to look for a copy that was in english or spanish. There were lots of copies of the same video so i tried another one without any luck and did not really know which ones i had looked at and left it for another day, so learning to make seed balls is somthing i still have to do. agri rose macaskie.
 
Leah Sattler
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polyparadigm wrote:
  I've read concord grape juice does work to repel them, though.




I would like to know more about this! it may be a chicken detterrent too!
 
rose macaskie
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  leah settler, Seed balls are meant to stop animals eating the seeds. If you are a nice green person who wants to save the world you should make them and then throw them on needy bits of ground, i have just been looking it all up. Get school children to make them and spread them etc. A way of keeping children occupied. 
  i suppose that the observers of nature observed how rabbit droppings held seeds and helped distribute them and got their ideas from there. Sparrows eat the seeds out of horse manure don't they.

      I have looked up seed balls in youtube to know how to find them and tell the information here and if you want to see Fukuoka making them, open up youtube and tap, into the space meant for your requests, "permaculture fukuoka" and then search, and even if you spell fukuoka, fukoaka, as i do sometimes, you still get  a video of him making seed balls and a choice of other videos featuring him and those inspired by him but as fukuoka's video on seed balls is in japanese, if you want to understand the process, if you want it in english, tap in, "the seed ball story" catfishbones, is the youtube name of the man, Jim Bones, who made this video and all will be explained in english.

    There is a method for producing lots of seed balls without hand rolling them at the end of catfisbones video. He has a hand made drum attached to a motor that turns the drum  and makes his, seed balls in mass, in this. If you whatch the fukuoka video on seed balls to the end he does the same with a cement mixer which seems to be a bit more handy for most people, my skills at making turning drums are nil.

  The recipe for seed balls as given by catfishbones is, 1 part seeds, 3 parts compost, 5 parts powdered clay, you mix first the compost and seeds and then add the powdered clay and mix that and then the water, bit by bit because you dont want the mix to be to wet, just wet enough for a small ball of seeds, marble sized, to hold together. There will be variouse seeds in one ball.

      If you don't have comopost use bag of brought earth for flower pots or for the garden. The soil in these bags, at least in the ones i know, is all humus, you can't find any gritty bits of sand in them.

    If you mix your seed balls in a concrete mixer, turn it on, throw in the dry ingredients while its going, and spray in water every often, so that, stuck together bits of clay and seed appear and gradualy grow like a rolled snow ball. I suppose this might need some practice.

  fukoaka puts in his seed balls, these seeds, according to the video "agricultura natural masanubo fukuoka which is of him and in spainish, "artemisa, peas, sweet potatoes, grass seeds, barley and white radish. He says this should be enough to turn a poor soil into a good one. With two types of the many clovers and in japan of the chinese algarobo, the last word is spanish in don't know the transalation. i can look it up i know there is a tree of this name and a groungd cover plant i think but i am fed up with writting this just now.
  I read somewhere else about his rice feilds, in which he sows rice oats and barley and clover all together in autumn the oats and baerley and clover grow first and the rice grows after the oats and barley have been harvested kept damp with the clover, The straw of oats barley and rice go as mulch for the soil. agri rose macaskie.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Leah Sattler wrote:
I would like to know more about this! it may be a chicken detterrent too!


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methyl_anthranilate
 
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