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Cover Crops and Hobby Farms

 
Ed Digital
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Hey all,
I've got a little over half an acre of pasture that has a cover crop of Buckwheat, Cowpea, and sorgum/sundan hybird located in the South East. It's ready to be mowed down.
The question I have is how to get a second cover crop in. The pasture soil was poor enough that to start I had a local guy come by with a tractor and break things up a bit. I then seeded it all with a hand broadcast seeded and dragged a piece of chain link fence behind my riding lawn mower to cover up the seeds. It worked pretty well.
That isn't a practical option anymore. It don't want to pay the guy to till again and I don't want to till at all.
When reading about Cover Cropping and No-till, there seems to be a gap between the 'Farm' that has really equipment (tractors, seed drills, etc) and the gardener who can do it all by hand. The middle 'Hobby Farm' is a challenge.
So, my question is two fold.
1) What's the best way to put in a 2nd cover crop for what I have? I was thinking just mow down what's there, wait a couple of weeks and then broadcast the same mix again but this time using a tow broadcaster.
2) What equipment, techniques, and tricks are folks doing when expensive farm equipment (e.g seed drills) isn't available and doing it by hand on 2-3 acres isn't practical?

----- Ed

 
Paul Schmidt
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Mow it down and wait. The existing cover crop will continue to grow and you can mow it down again later. As it continues to grow, it will put down even deeper roots to aerate the lower layers of soil and mine for deep nutrients. If you try to establish a new cover crop without removing the old one, then you are certain to meet with failure.
 
Bob Anders
Posts: 45
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
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As for the tricks and techniques.
A lot of times cover crops on “food lots” are planted after harvest in summer or fall. It's best to grow something that will winter kill so your able to plant a cash crop in the spring. Depending on the farmer and what was planted they will mow it down, use a “roller chopper” to lay the cover crop own, or will bail it. Seeding is mostly done with drills.

If sounds like it would be best to just mow what you have as high as you can and just let it keep growing.
 
Ray South
Posts: 54
Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
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If you slash an annual grass just as it begins to head much of it will die. I don't know whether the same is true for buckwheat and cowpea but I suspect mowing it will kill off some. Regrowth will probably be patchy. You could experiment - oversow then mow in one part, mow then oversow in another and just mow in the remainder. You'd probably want to run over the mow-then-sow section again after sowing to get the new seeds in contact with some soil.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I did thirty acres with a lawn tractor, lawn roller, seed spreader, and old box spring as a drag.

You can have a local welder convert a metal lawn roller into a small crimp roller fairly cheaply--but it might be better just to have the welder start from scratch and build it with heavy bearings.

Another awesome hobby farm tool is a walk behind sickle mower. I am on a search for an affordable one on craigslist again. Then I can harvest a lot more grass as hay or chop and drop quickly.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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