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No till...but how?

 
Jess DeMoss
Posts: 17
Location: Silver City, NM ~6500'
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So, let's say that I have a 1 acre plot. I cover crop half of it for winter with vetch or something similar. Come spring, how do I go about planting in this half with all of the vetch growing if I don't till it into the soil? Chickens could help throughout the winter but I reckon they probably wouldn't get all of it.

Any thoughts?
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
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Some winter covers, I think vetch may be one of them, will largely die off, or at least die back drastically, if mowed, scythed, or grazed off when in full bloom or later, and you can then plant vigorous seedlings into the stubble. A halfway compromise would be strip tilling or making planting holes or patches, enabling direct seeding I grew Three Sisters once this way in a field full of woodchips from a brush grinder, planting the corn in clumps six feet apart both ways, then adding beans and squash later. Or you could get ambitious and sheetmulch over the whole thing....perhaps proceeding in sections through the season mowing or scything and moving the slash aside, coming back in with amendments and cardboard, then replacing the cut slash on top for a wind-cover. Let mellow a while and plant through. This sort of system I have found is about the only way to sustainably garden with an infestation of something like bermuda grass.....
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Well, the big ag answer is to spray (2,4-D or glyphosphate).

The big organic answer is a crimp roller: http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/organic-no-till/no-till-rollercrimper-plans/

Other mechanical options I have seen is a close mowing right before planting with something that mulches (mechanical chop and drop). Vetch is a hard one for that unless you have a flail mower. This may not kill the crop, but hopefully stunts it enough the new crop can germinate and outcompete.

What tools do you have at your disposal? You can make a man-sized crimp roller out of a lawn roller and strap iron ($200-300 new, under 100 from CL).

You can chop and drop by hand with a scythe, sharp hoe, kaiser blade (some folks call it a sling blade), machete, square shovel--depends on what you have (including TIME).
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3782
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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But please do not use the chemical sprays!
 
M Foti
Posts: 170
Location: western n.c.
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Rscott is on the right track. The MIX is super important, you want to have a good mix that will till the soil for you. You want to have a vehicle that will not compact the ground as much, that would be for example turf tires on a smaller tractor.

The roll crimper is really the only way to go though, you get near perfect kill with it. when done properly. I've been researching this for a while, most of our farm is perennials but we are expanding areas for annual crops and no-till is the way to go. Keep digging as I can't relay all the information i've learned in a few typed paragraphs. The main points though are proper cover crop mix, building a roller-crimper, and having a low impact vehicle to use...

I was extraordinarily skeptical at first, but after seeing some documentaries put out by universities (NOT some snake oil salesman which is so common in the farming industry), I saw some "real" farmers using this method successfully, I'm talking thousand acre farms here.

while it isn't exactly "sustainable" since you have to re-plant the cover crop, the costs are actually lower and the benefits are huge.
 
M Foti
Posts: 170
Location: western n.c.
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I just found this video for another member, here it is for anyone looking...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWXCLVCJWTU

while it may be a bit insulting for me to refer to "real" farmers, I do not intend for it to be, I am meaning people who are really earning their living off of the land. These fellas in the video are moving in the right direction and still able to implement this on large farms... This video was the turning point for me, after that I began my own research and wow... I'm sold.
 
Jess DeMoss
Posts: 17
Location: Silver City, NM ~6500'
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R Scott wrote:You can make a man-sized crimp roller out of a lawn roller and strap iron ($200-300 new, under 100 from CL).


This sounds like what I'm after.

What would that be listed under? Do you have plans or know of a source with them?
 
josh brill
Posts: 86
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With the crimper have the right amount of weight is key to getting a good crimp. The walkbehind model that earthtools sells, needs a total weight of 400lbs. To little weight and you'll get regrowth. To much and you will start cutting up the stems. We are going to be buying one of these next spring for the annuals we aren't growing on the hugelbeets.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ohio-Steel-Professional-Grade-18-in-x-40-in-400-lb-Capacity-Steel-Lawn-Roller-9W/202324246#.UpI0GHCkreQ

Just a link to a basic lawn roller you can start with, but on craigslist for $100 or less. Any scrap iron can be used to do the crimps, they don't need to be at an angle like the rodale one--it is just smoother if you are running it fast. You need a fair bit of weight, so don't go too wide unless you have something to pull it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smWBrteHOX4
 
Seth Wetmore
Posts: 158
Location: Some where in the universe in space and time.
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Go to you tube and watch videos on making seed balls.
 
Jess DeMoss
Posts: 17
Location: Silver City, NM ~6500'
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Has anyone tried using a scythe to produce the same effects as the roller crimper? I understand that one crimps the stalk and the other would cut the stalk but would there be much difference in the 2? Would there be specific cover crop plants that would lend themselves better to being cut than bent? Would a scythe be possible in a one acre field?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Yes you can scythe an acre. Quickly if you know what you are doing, but painfully and slow if you don't

What makes crimping work is that it breaks the capillaries so the plant dries out, but doesn't break the stem so it can't grow a new shoot. Chop and drop most will grow back, crimping won't.
 
ben harpo
Posts: 76
Location: Illinois, zone 6b
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http://postimg.org/image/6mzwgd48f/

I found out that water treatment plants go through lots of plastic blue barrels (not perfectly food grade). But they work great as 450 lb water filled rollers. I decided attatching an axle to the barrel was too much work, when I realized a cage style frame could be built using scrap wood in just a few hours. The plastic barrels are not invincible but they hold up well enough to do the job. They are free and easy to replace.

A steel roller or a cultipacker could be better if it was heavy enough. A cheap roller from the big box farm store might hit a rock and get a dent.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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That is pretty ingenious, ben!!! I have to remember that one.
 
Deshe Benjamin
Posts: 39
Location: Savannah GA
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m foti: I would like to be able to show that video to many large ag farners. makes me really proud to see it being done larg scale with good success. "I'm just tickled to death with it" --cover cropping.

I'm very excited how much cut from fert and pesticides. 50%-90% with hopes of 100% cut with some farmers

Thank you for sharing
 
Peter Mckinlay
Posts: 182
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Hello Jess,

Follow nature which drops its seed into the mulch on the ground.

In your situation spread the seeds then mow the vetch to cover.

Peter
 
Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 384
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Jess DeMoss wrote:Would there be specific cover crop plants that would lend themselves better to being cut than bent?

Probably, but the best cover crop mixes do the best when rolled, not cut.

I'm doing winter rye on my garden and in the first year i made a mistake of cutting it down prior planting.
New growth of rye all over the place, so it became a weed not letting plants grow.
Now i just break it at soil level, cramp it down with hands, since this is a garden it can be done.
This makes a wonderful on site mulch, decaying roots, more than enough nutrients for teh season and "clear" ground for planting.

Big acreage notill farming also works with cover crop which is rolled before planting.
I think the percentage of winter cereal is mostly the biggest with some other plants in for the spice.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 290
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Really great thread. Thanks to you all.
 
Phillip Swartz
Posts: 38
Location: Upper Midwest - Third Coast - USDA Zone 6a/b
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I've used the crimped down cereal rye for several seasons. Make sure you plant cereal rye because ryegrass will not work. Seeding rate should be high. A lot of the broad acre farmers using this technique are putting on 4 bu per acre and this high rate is needed in order to generate a large amount of above ground biomass that ends up being the mulch. This method works really well when done properly. I advocate using cereal rye by itself. The technique works best with cash crops that are normally planted a little bit later in the season and/or can be transplanted toward the end of May in Zone 5 - the cereal rye (or hairy vetch) must be crimped at antithesis which is the life stage when the plant is attempting to reproduce. It will not have the energy or hormonal balance to promote more vegetative growth making the kill easier. Antithesis in cereal rye is evident when the small yellow flowers appear and begin releasing pollen. To crimp by hand I use a board with a metal 'cleat' bolted to the bottom and two rope handles - one from each end of the board. A coworker and I would take turns running the crimper by walking it through the field and pushing the rye down then jumping on the board causing the metal cleat to crimp the stems of the rye. This has worked really well but is a really tough workout. Having multiple people take turns makes it easier on everyone. For transplanting we then break into teams. Drip tape can be laid down then one person goes along the row making dibbles with a trowel or one of those soil augers because this ground will be much more firm than freshly tilled garden beds. The dibbling person can pour a little shot of water in the hole just like a water wheel transplanter. Next, someone can come along and put a small amount of fertilizer in the hole but this step is optional. Finally, a person comes along with the transplants and places them in the divet and firms the soil around your soil block

This past season I had an awesome crop of pumpkins and winter squash grown this way with zero fertilizer and very little pest problems. In the spring of 2013 I tilled an old garden and sowed a heavy mix of leftover cover crop seeds like hairy vetch, crimson clover, buckwheat, alfalfa, oats, and some pasture grasses. Mowed once during the summer then tilled under in the fall. I immediately replanted with a heavy rate of cereal rye. In the spring of 2014 I terminated the rye with a crimper. Note that current hairy vetch varieties still contain some "hard seed" meaning that it does not germinate the first year. Also, I've never been able to kill hairy vetch when I terminate the cereal rye and the vetch will eventually go to seed if you do not pull it by hand which is very easy to do.

Alternatively, some intensive scale organic veggie farmers are using opaque silage tarps to kill weeds and cover crops and prepare stale seedbeds. Check out Jean-Martin Fortier. In this method you would probably mow or crimp down a cover crop then place an opaque tarp over the vegetation. After two - three weeks the vegetation should be dead and you can plant into the seedbed.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 290
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Thanks for that great information Phillip. Would you mind posting a couple pictures of the crimper?
 
Fabio Klein
Posts: 14
Location: Bom Princípio, RS, Brazil
trees
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Hi. I´m from Brazil, first post.

I´ve tried the technique of seeding black oats during winter and than mowing it with a scythe. I mowed at bloom and very few survived. Than I seeded corn, beans, etc. Even though the mulch was thick, many weeds grew and I decided to till half of the land and hoed the other.

This year I´m reducing the weed´s number to a minumum by hoeing and hope each year I may enlarge the no-till area of my field by constant elimination of weeds during summer crops.

I will also try sowing white clover next winter in order to see if they supress weeds well.

Hmm, I have many pictures but can´t post since they aren´t on the web.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 290
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Welcome Fabio! Glad you have joined or community.
I'm interested in the black oats you mentioned. I'm always looking for new cover crops and am curious as to its heat and cold tolerance. Is it just a fall cover or could it be planted in early spring as well? Could it be crimped into a mulch like winter rye?
 
Fabio Klein
Posts: 14
Location: Bom Princípio, RS, Brazil
trees
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It depends upon your climate. I live in the extreme south of Brazil and we have a subtropical climate. Hot summer and mild winter. The temparatures extremes range from 0 to 40 celsius. The oats are sown in the fall and ripen at spring. They almost don´t germinate during summer. I don´t know about rye, it´s not very usual here as green manure. What´s most common are oats, vetch and "fodder turnip" (?). WellI think it could be crimped.
 
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