• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Establishing cover crops

 
Ionel Catanescu
Posts: 103
Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all.

I have this 6.5 ha (16 acres) land on a 5-15% southern slope.
The land has not seen conventional agriculture since a long time (tens of years).
It has plenty of dog rose bushes, common hawthorn, and other bushes plus grasses and whatnot, all growing wild.
There are some white clover patches from sheep passing by.

The soil down to about 5cm (2 in) or maybe a little more is rather hard and dry and looks akin to a not very dense felt.

I have tried to direct seed white clover, birdfoot's trefoil, radish, wild beet, dandelion, all sorts of wild plants and even comfrey.
I haven't seen anything make it by now.

Do you know of a way, at this scale, that i can establish a cover crop ?
It has to go thru all those roots forming a mat, to reach subsoil.

I thought of ploughing, rototilling, etc but i lack the machinery and considering the existing randomly distributed vegetation, the tractor guys are reluctant to break they're tynes.

A layer of mulch would work wonders in the cold/wet season to break down all those roots but the amount needed for this area sets me back ...

I also plan putting some swales to keep the water going downhill but these will have to wait until i manage to find the equipment needed.


Any help on this is extremely appreciated.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ionel Catanescu wrote:
Do you know of a way, at this scale, that i can establish a cover crop ?
It has to go thru all those roots forming a mat, to reach subsoil.

I thought of ploughing, rototilling, etc but i lack the machinery and considering the existing randomly distributed vegetation, the tractor guys are reluctant to break they're tynes.


Use pigs or chickens to clear & fertilize the land and then eat them. Goats are possible to but they are more work, IMO.
Watch geoff lawton's videos on chicken tractoring to clear land.
Preview:
 
Ionel Catanescu
Posts: 103
Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I forgot to mention i can't use animals since i live nowhere near the land (50km distance).

So i can only go there during weekends, when i don't have to work for a living ... i know, i know, it's going to be pretty tough but it's all i've got.

Therefore, other methods must be found.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
78
bee chicken fungi solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Perhaps you can find a like minded person who would like to rent the land from you and raise the animals. You would both benefit.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In the US, the guys that do this are hunters--making cover (food) plots on the weekend, often with minimal tools. You need a few good hand garden tools and some sweat equity.



Ignore all the products, just see that they do the work.

In the old days, many would have used fire--and that can work but it has definite downsides. Some will say NEVER burn, but it was part of nature occasionally.
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
Posts: 684
Location: Richmond, Utah
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You are too late this year, but I have had success with barley. I broadcast seed into the mud/snow in the early spring, so the barley can get tall enough to outcompete the other grasses. Then when the barley is in the soft seed stage, broadcast your cover crop and chop and drop everything on top of the seed. If you can't do the entire 6ha in one season, then use islands of fertility throughout the entire property until the islands grow together.
The key here is to use grain(any grain suited to your area), because the energy in the seed allows the grain to shoot up even in heavy grass, then when dropped the heavy stems form a dense cover for the actual cover crop. I even do this in my gardens and orchards.
 
Ionel Catanescu
Posts: 103
Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bill, i know this year is somewhat lost ... it's ok.

I did use a grain (oats) this early spring but it did not work ... also used soy to the same effect ...

The seed has enough energy but the soil is pretty hard, even if wet during winter/spring so the seedling has a hard time getting it's root in the ground.
If not even comfrey could establish ...
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ionel Catanescu wrote:Bill, i know this year is somewhat lost ... it's ok.

I did use a grain (oats) this early spring but it did not work ... also used soy to the same effect ...

The seed has enough energy but the soil is pretty hard, even if wet during winter/spring so the seedling has a hard time getting it's root in the ground.
If not even comfrey could establish ...


If it is THAT compacted, you are going to have to do something to kick start it.

I would mark some contour lines and clean strips (mower or rake) and decompact them with a broadfork. Then establish cover crops.

You can do a couple rounds of buckwheat now, followed with winter wheat and daikon this fall, and frost seed clover in the spring and establish perennials next year.

You will be doing the equivalent of keyline plowing by hand and root. The broadfork breaks up the top 6-8 inches and then the roots can work down from there.

It is a lot of work, but if you tackle it smartly you can chew off manageable pieces.
 
Dan Tutor
Posts: 103
Location: Zone 5, Maine Coast
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Are you direct seeding onto undisturbed ground that already is covered in growing things? If that's the case, anything to pull back the leaf litter and provide more seed to earth contact will help.
Like r.scott says above -( key line is great idea too!)
I would first chop and drop everything on the site you don't want to keep, and pile it in windrows ( or mounds, future hugulcultures, etc). then rake clean the earth in the spaces you want to plant ( between the windrows) lightly disturbing the surface, or the more labor intensive routes - broad fork,double dig or pick and shovel. After planting your seed, lightly mulch with the old leaf litter. As your plants grow you can continue to mulch around them with the chopped and dropped vegetation, or leave it in windrows to gradually compost.

Even if you start little islands of cover crop this way, the soil fertility will spread outward, like fungi on a Petri dish. Good luck! You are at my same latitude, so I am very curious to learn more about your successes.


Oh, and in the chickens forum there is discussion of an automated chicken coop door. Other permies are using it in situations similar to yours where they cannot visit their land everyday.
 
Ionel Catanescu
Posts: 103
Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
R.Scott, Dan

Thanks for the info.

I made myself one of these :
http://www.standnplant.com/images/planter_smr.jpg
http://www.mechanicaltransplanter.com/image/JP1F.jpg

They were not as advanced but still did the job.
The second one had a hatchet blade to cut the ground but still, penetration was 2-3cm (1-1.5in) and fairly hard to push.

So, the seeds i placed were IN the ground, not on the ground.
I seeded in march when 90% of the existing vegetation was still dormant.
As of now, i can't see any sign of anything i did

My guess is the ground was fairly hard and stuffed with grass roots already and moisture was not enough.
And even if the seeds germinated, the above plus the existing vegetation must have finished them ...


Regarding animals, i think until someone stays there permanently, this is a no-no.

The plot has as neighbor the village sheepfold and it's a national sport for the shepherds to not give a flying rat's behind about private property.
I won't say a word about this anymore.

So, unless someone stays there 24/7 and/or i finish planting a "highly efficient" living hedge, ground cover is all i ask.
 
Enrique Garcia
Posts: 86
Location: Las Vegas, NV
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What if you hire or trade to get labor to dig in a row, one row at a time ,then plant tallest trees you can grow along southern edge .. to shade as much as possible during wet season so more of the rains are kept .. then swales to capture rainfall .. or cover with cardboard & rocks .. any ground cover will help your land as critters can up to aerate & feed the soil as long as there is cover of any kind .. not just cover crops ... then when you plant you stand a better chance ... do this one acre at a time .. this sounds like a 20 year job but you can get there ... sorry i don't know what the climate is like in Romania .. good luck
 
Ionel Catanescu
Posts: 103
Location: Timisoara, Romania, 45N, 21E, Z6-7
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Enrique.

Hiring people to do some of the job sounds interesting.
Will think about it.


Regarding tall trees / wet season etc, the rains are mostly during autumn/winter/spring, perhaps the rainiest month is May.
When it rains there's pretty much little or no sun so there's not much to shade.
And, when it rains, it's also cold (right now it's 17C outside and cloudy).
Winter is frigid so there's little evaporation.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic