I've found that it is very difficult to get fall cover crops established in Colorado. Soil moisture is low, the weather is still hot and dry, and temperatures can be erratic. And I'm working on a small scale, where I can pull out the garden hose. Winter wheat is commercially grown here as a dryland crop; it is planted in September and October, grows a little, goes dormant over the winter, and resumes growth in the spring. How is this done?
The way I grow winter wheat, is to plant it just before the fall monsoons are expected. That way, it germinates with the fall rains, and grows a little bit during the fall, and even seems to grow during the winter, under the snow. Then when the snow melts, it is already really well established, and can undergo vigorous growth before the weeds sprout, and while there is still plenty of soil moisture.
For me, the first fall monsoon is typically during September. But anytime during the fall when rain/snow is expected is a great time to plant winter wheat, winter peas, or other overwintering cover crops.
Gilbert Fritz wrote:And I'm working on a small scale, where I can pull out the garden hose. Winter wheat is commercially grown here as a dryland crop; it is planted in September and October, grows a little, goes dormant over the winter, and resumes growth in the spring. How is this done?
I'll assume they are not growing this under those center-pivots east of you out on the plains? Even if it seems dry, I'm wondering if there probably is just enough moisture as the temps cool down to get the wheat to germinate and get roots established. How comparable to winter wheat germination characteristics are the cover crops that you are trying to establish?
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
Here's a cumulative precipitation graph for the Denver area in 2017. I have marked when I would like to plant wheat or other overwintering crops. For what it's worth, a lot of my workflow as a farmer both planting and harvest is driven by weather. Planting, and harvesting just before the weather turns from dry to rainy.