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Too late to cover crop!?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 24
Location: Denver, CO
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Hey All,

FINALLY! I have ~16 acres of Northern Colorado farmland in my possession. The corn has been off the land for almost a month now but I didn't hear about it until last week. But that's a whole other story! I very much want to cover crop this fall, IF it's still possible. My plan is to plant Hairy Vetch at 30# per acre, Daikon Radish at 20# per acre, and Winter Rye at 80# per acre. The previous farmer is willing to prepare the soil and we've also found someone with a seed drill setup who will plant for us. We access to all the irrigation water we could ever need. The farm is zone 5B. My goals for cover cropping this fall are building soil organic matter, building soil nutrients, and suppressing weed growth. Any cover crop planted this fall will chopped and dropped on the spring and a spring cover crop planted. My questions for you:

Is it too late to plant that mix of crops? Is it too late to plant any mix of crops? Do you have any ideas for cover crops that I could plant now (in the next week) that would be more successful than those proposed above?

of the three the one i'm most iffy on is the daikon radish. I don't think the roots will get all that big in the remaining time we have and the seed is expensive.

Thanks for the help!
 
pollinator
Posts: 208
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
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Daikon likes cold weather and can handle mild frost. The flavor after light frost is greatly improved, it goes from hot hot hot to sweet-hot and crisp. I just pulled one during our fall heatwave here that burned when I ate it. I can't wait for the frost so I can make my daikon pickles.
 
Posts: 145
Location: New Zealand
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I don't know what you're soil temp is right now but tick beans will get up and shade out weeds and also fix some N. Quick, easy and simple if you're busy elsewhere and buys you some time to work out what you want to do in the spring.
 
Andrew Roesner
Posts: 24
Location: Denver, CO
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Thanks Ryan, sounds like Daikon might still be on the list! I'm planting it for its ability to grow huge tap roots and break up the soil and then leave lots of organic matter behind so it wont be harvested (well, maybe a couple!), but if you think it will germinate and grow well until the soils freeze then I might try it!

Drew, looks like tick beans might be what we call fava beans up this way? Thanks for the recommendation! They might work great in this system!
 
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I use tillage radish a lot, but if it doesn't have at least 8 weeks or so before it frost-kills, it will have pretty limited growth.  If you have 8 weeks, I would try it.  Otherwise I would save the seed for later.  Nothing says you can't plant tillage radish in the spring as long as you don't need that area for planting then.
 
master pollinator
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In life there are things we want to do, and then there are a few surprises. As farmers we just have to roll with it. In this case, I would just sow down winter rye exclusively and you will be well ahead in the Spring time. Is it the ideal mixture you wanted? No, but it was not your fault, delays happen, so use what you can this year, and next year try your ideal cover crop mixture when you can get an earlierjump on it. Winter rye by itselfis an excellent cover crop and why so many farmers rely on it.
 
Andrew Roesner
Posts: 24
Location: Denver, CO
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Todd Parr wrote:I use tillage radish a lot, but if it doesn't have at least 8 weeks or so before it frost-kills, it will have pretty limited growth.  If you have 8 weeks, I would try it.  Otherwise I would save the seed for later.  Nothing says you can't plant tillage radish in the spring as long as you don't need that area for planting then.



Hi Todd. Thanks for giving me that time frame. I don't think we have 8 weeks unfortunately. And that radish seed is a bit pricey! I like the idea of planting some in the spring. I use no more that 4 acres next spring so the rest will be in cover again for the summer.
 
Andrew Roesner
Posts: 24
Location: Denver, CO
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Travis Johnson wrote:In life there are things we want to do, and then there are a few surprises. As farmers we just have to roll with it. In this case, I would just sow down winter rye exclusively and you will be well ahead in the Spring time. Is it the ideal mixture you wanted? No, but it was not your fault, delays happen, so use what you can this year, and next year try your ideal cover crop mixture when you can get an earlierjump on it. Winter rye by itselfis an excellent cover crop and why so many farmers rely on it.



Hi Travis. Thanks for framing the problem in this way. We so often want to make everything just exactly perfect! The Winter Rye will certainly thrive if planted soon. I think I'll go ahead and plant some vetch with it as well. Our warm sunny days in autumn keep the soil reasonably warm well into November.
 
Posts: 7
Location: Fall City WA
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One late planted cover crop that works well for me is mache (corn salad or valerianella locusta). It isn't deep rooted or high biomass producing, but it sprouts and grows quickly, and if sown thickly enough competes well with weeds. It will prevent soil erosion and at least keeps the soil microbes fed with its living roots. It can be picked all winter (at least in my climate) for delicious salad greens. There are valerianella genus native species for the North American continent too, if you can find seeds for them. High Mowing Seeds, Fedco, and probably Johnny's Seeds sell bulk quantities of the usual garden species.

Other quick growing cover seeds I like to include in my winter cover crops include the quicker salad brassicas, like arugula, broadleaf cress, and upland cress, and of course mustards. They grow fast and will feed you well too. They are faster than daikon radishes.

Fave beans are among the cover crops that can be planted very late in the Pacific NW, I don't know about CO. They sprout in cool conditions. What about red clover? It may not grow until spring but if planted now it may survive as very small seedlings. Find a variety adapted to your area.

The newest research on cover crops emphasizes planted mixes of species. You are then providing food for a wider diversity of microbes, and besides, if one species fails, something else besides weeds is likely to survive. Look up Gabe Brown, Jill Clapperton, or Ray Archuleta on you tube. There are also some great videos on building soil at LivingWebFarms.org
 
Posts: 265
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I have tillage radish seed which I have tried to use, but not in the context most people would use it.

If you have access to a soil bed, you may be able to get tillage radish to germinate and grow.  Providing there is enough time before the killing frost.

I have little or no access to a seed bed (exposed soil).  And I have seen no evidence of tillage radish germinating  either last fall or late summer here.

Perhaps a person needs to coat the radish seed in clay and/or compost like a seed bomb, in order to get it to germinate?  Of course, getting moisture at the right time is part of this equation.  And this last year has not had moisture at the best times.

I have broadcast feed oats into standing pasture this spring, and it germinated.  Late summer, the power company decided to clear right of way on power lines, and took a HydroAx to 30,000 square feet (or so) of land.  I broadcast fall rye into this mix of soil and ground up trees, and I seen some rye germinate and start to grow.  Next spring I will know more.

 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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On land that will be in cover crops next year, you could seed Korean Lesoedeza on top of the ground in February. It will add nitrogen. You can seed it right on top of wheat or oats. I'm not sure about rye.
 
Posts: 263
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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Andrew Roesner wrote:

Drew, looks like tick beans might be what we call fava beans up this way? Thanks for the recommendation! They might work great in this system!



Tick/field beans are smaller and tougher (both to grow and eat!) than what I would call broad or fava beans.  They're basically the same thing though.  Many varieties of broad bean prefer spring sowing.  Field beans I sow in October/November and they sit a few inches high all winter and are pretty hardy.  Also the rabbits don't seem to like them.

I would also second corn salad as an autumn sown edible cover crop, if you can get it in large enough quantities to be economic, or save your own seed.  
 
Posts: 38
Location: Denver, 6a / BSk, apartment dweller, looking to Woof near Denver
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Hey Andrew, need a hand on your land?

I'm in Denver and looking to get my hands dirty and hopefully lend some actual help in the process.
 
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