Hello all, we just bought a property with 9 acres that has been monocropped by the local conglomerate of industrial farmers (corn/soybean/corn/soybean). My goal is to have a small grass fed livestock operation as well as an acre of veg. However, we don't take the property until mid summer. The local farmer who has been working the land is all set to do his thing, and I need to stop him before he plants. I'm hoping to hire him get seed into the ground so it doesn't just sit filling with weed seed. Can anyone make a recommendation of seeds that I would buy (I will buy organic and give to the farmer to spread). I was thinking mixed legume - alfalfa, clover, as well as native grasses? Is there any reading recommendations you can give to me that is geared towards regenerating industrial tilled soils to move towards rich organic producing soils for pasture fed livestock?
First, while a lot of us on this site might qualify as tree-huggers, granolas, or whatever, permaculture on this site, as a rule, does not insist on the use of native plants as a good in itself in the agricultural or horticultural context. (Obviously this doesn't refer to natural areas.) I agree with this and thus wouldn't necessarily plant native grasses. I'd think about 1) improving the soil and 2) what the strategy is.
The second thing is that you don't give any location information at all in your post or in your profile at present. That limits the information you'll get. When we started working on improving the soil on our 18 acre parcel (a chunk of former conventional farmland), we tried lots of different things. Field peas did well for us; buckwheat did not. Now our house is in the southeast and I use buckwheat all the time as a green manure in the garden etc. and it generally does well. And so on. Forage turnips didn't do well up north either but they're back every year here. And so on.
A big part of our strategy is what I call "deliberate neglect." Left to itself, the land will invite suitable plant colonizers. Some might call them by the derogatory term "weeds." However, if the goal is rejuvenation and not harvest, they will do that: they catch sunlight and produce organic matter just as other plants do. As a bonus, they self-select for suitability.
If you're interested in improving your land, you might think about a daikon or tillage radish. They scavenge nutrients from the soil and when left in place will add much organic matter. Forage turnips (hardier than the eating type) do similar things.
I like hairy vetch for poor conditions because it doesn't need much and will come back year after year. Chickpeas are good on poor soil. Field peas have done well for us.
In terms of reading: check your neighboring states' extension services. There is tons of free information out there. They tend to skew toward industrial approaches for obvious reasons but there is still much to learn. I like Eliot Coleman's books, esp. _The New Organic Grower_.
(I see the "we just bought" but I have to ask) Are you closing on the property in mid-summer or already closed and are allowing until then for the handover? If you are not closing until then and he is going to be planting a crop that he can harvest by then, I can't imagine you'll have a ton of luck talking him out of planting his crop....
If you're not familiar with Gabe Brown, Youtube him and watch a couple of his presentations on cover crops. I would imagine that what he grows in Bismark ND would work for you in Ontario.
Get a mix of grasses and broadleaf cover crop seeds, with legumes for N fixation. 20 different seeds wouldn't be excessive.
Just off the top of my head:
some variety of oats
some variety of mustard
Get the right innocculant for your seeds to assure nitrogen fixation.
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