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Grains for cover crops

 
Jess DeMoss
Posts: 17
Location: Silver City, NM ~6500'
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Does anyone have any suggestions for grains that could be used for fall/winter cover crops. Ones that could be able to feed the soil AND feed me...bread? Are most grains heavy feeders?
 
John Polk
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I'm not certain what your USDA zone is, but @6,500 feet, I'm guessing that it gets pretty cold.

I would recommend Winter Rye.
As long as your soil is 34* or more, it will still germinate.
It is the hardiest winter cereal, surviving to Zone 3 (-30* to -40*).
However, it takes 330-345 days to mature to grain.
September probably would have been about the right time to sow it.

 
Jess DeMoss
Posts: 17
Location: Silver City, NM ~6500'
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Thanks John!

We're on the line of 8a and 7b according to the New USDA Plant Hardiness Map

Is winter rye not a heavy feeder? Good for bread?
However, it takes 330-345 days to mature to grain.

YIKES! How would that do as a cover crop? Plant in September...harvest following August-ish...then plant what? Perhaps plant in Spring then harvest next spring, cut and drop, plant spring crop?
 
John Polk
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That 330-345 days is for a fall planting. It would probably be much shorter if spring planted.
A reason for its popularity as a fall planting is that while it is harvested about the same time as spring rye, having it in the ground all winter helps keep the water in the soil (where you want it) rather than running off.

It is a water-wise crop in that it utilizes fall/winter water for its early growth, while at the same time helps store excess water in the soil so that spring/summer rains are not half depleted trying to rehydrate the soil.

Here is a comparison chart for various seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds that should give you a good insight for what will work in your area.

 
Jordan Lowery
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two summer cover crops that will yield weed suppression, soil building and food are amaranth and buckwheat. very easy to grow and a good pioneer plant after earthworks to get things going.
 
John Polk
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I don't know if you have contacted them yet, but the extension agents are often a good source of information.
In NM, the extension service is run through NMSU.
They offer many Free publications, and even have their own YouTube Channel

Your Grant County agent is located right there in Silver City.

(Be forewarned that most Extension Agents are trained in 'ChemAg'. [They got their education at a university that is partly funded by ChemAg.] If he looks funny at you when you mention 'organic', then he is one of 'them'. There are many that are also well into organic practices. If your local agent is totally against organic, try the ones from surrounding counties.)


 
Rebecca Norman
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Buckwheat is used in some parts of Ladakh as a second crop after barley, in the longer-summer parts of Ladakh. I don't think anyone here has mentioned, buckwheat is really one of the most delicious leafy greens! I think it would be worth growing for a short time, cutting off for leafy greens and leaving the roots (to rot or be plowed in or sit over the winter).

Here especially where buckwheat grows as a garden or field weed, it is collected in late spring or early summer as part of normal weeding. You can cook the leaves immediately or dry them raw to cook in the winter. The dried leaves are very dark green, with an attractive silvery spotting or sheen on them. As a cooked green they are really the smoothest one and have something very yummy in the mouth about them. (If you like cooked greens).

The only greens I like better are caper greens, which require processing and retain a slight caper flavor. Spinach, swiss chard, some kind of mustard greens, and some kind of lettuce are the leafy greens that are cultivated and cooked most here, but buckwheat leaves are hands down more yummy than the rest. Here we cook buckwheat leaves up when we have to host a vegetarian dinner in the winter -- it's the kind of goody you save for guests.
 
Jess DeMoss
Posts: 17
Location: Silver City, NM ~6500'
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Thanks everyone! And thanks John for the Extension Agency lead.

2 more questions: Are winter rye and buckwheat A: heavy feeders? and B: good for sourdough bread making?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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They are accumulators if cut when green, and still very light on the land if they go to seed--just return the straw to the land.

Both can be used in sourdough, although I don't know about 100%.
 
John Polk
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Most rye bread recipes I have seen use various proportions of rye and wheat flour.
There are literally 1,000's of rye bread recipes, as it is the ethnic bread of much of northern and eastern Europe. Their hardier climates, and consequently hardier diets, call for a more robust grain.

Here are 34 Rye Bread recipes.
Including a Sourdough rye bread recipe.

Rye bread is essential to many sandwiches (Reuben, ham, and some cheeses), plus it is a wonderful accompaniment to any soup or stew. (In my opinion, for soups/stews, the bread is best if torn off the loaf, rather than cut off. It adds to the rustic nature of the meal.)

 
John Elliott
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Jess DeMoss wrote:Thanks everyone! And thanks John for the Extension Agency lead.

2 more questions: Are winter rye and buckwheat A: heavy feeders? and B: good for sourdough bread making?


B: maybe sourdough pancake making. The most common use for buckwheat in the US, is to grind it into flour and make pancakes. In Eastern Europe, they leave it whole and make "kasha" out of it -- boil it up and serve it like rice.

A: buckwheat is not a heavy feeder and is often a salvage crop, as in when the first crop gets destroyed in the summer by a flood, hailstorm, etc., there is still enough time to go seed the lost crop field with buckwheat and get something for your troubles.

Silver City ought to be good millet territory, but you don't sew that now, wait until April/May and it can make good use of the summer monsoon. See more about millet in my post here.
 
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