My partner and I just moved onto 40 acres in December in Klickitat Wa. We have a south and south east facing 7 acres we are planning to grow and want to build up the soil. It is rocky with oaks and grass at this time.
We have a mix of clover, daikon and rye I would like to introduce in order to build up organic material. I know I should have put cover crops in in the fall but Im not worried about growing that area this summer so is it possible to plant an early spring cover crop using the mix I have or do I need to move towards a different cover crop?
My daikon's self-seed every year. I've got some sprouting up right now, of their own accord. Granted, I'm zone 8/7, on the other side of the mountains. But, you could probably sew the daikon seeds and they'll probably sprout up when they're ready. Or, wait until mid-February and plant them then, so as to not lose as many.
dutch clover (n-fixer)
forage chicory and daikon radish
thyme family and carrot family
(I know that there is suppose to be some biomass/grass family plants too, I have never planted them myself due to my tiny scale I just get free woodchip, but I have heard that rye/wheat/oats are good)
I know Washington but I don't know Klickitat. Is that on the wet side or the dry side?
What would you approximate your last frost date to be? South facing hills are really important. I've read that for every 5 degrees your south facing hill is sloped, it's the equivalent of being located 150 miles further south. So a 15 degree slope would be like living 450 miles south of your actual location.
I use a cool season nitrogen fixing mix from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. They've got a great mix of different cover crop seeds. https://www.groworganic.com I'm in zone 9B, so it's worlds away from where you are at, but I used to live in Tacoma and we were able to keep a cover crop growing 9 to 10 months a year there. Some brassicas can take some frost and still keep growing.
You'll want a mix of both broad leaf plants as well as grasses, and you'll want to buy a bag of bacterial inoculant to assure that they fix N. The mix I get has all sorts of different legumes, vetches, oats, radishes and other stuff.
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Klickitat is South Eastern Wa, where Washington boarders Oregon. So the dry side. (I'm on the wet side, and it's amazing how different the two sides are from one another ecologically! It makes road trips really fun as there's a lot of very distinct and different ecoregions here in Washington!)
I’d suggest, if the soil is cold and wet, that you plant oats and then till under later to enhance your cover crop and then plant your other mix of covers in late spring. A bag of whole (uncrimped oats) will grow quickly and add vegetative matter). Most clovers won’t do much the first year so if added to the mix there isn’t as much of a benefit, through you might add inoculated mammoth “one cut” red clover.
Normally rye and daikon radishes are fall grown: the daikon radishes root enters the soul deeply and the rye will put on a lot of growth in the fall and colder weather and lower light conditions. The crimson clover may add some benefit but the growth will be modest and unable to compete with radish and rye. The latter two collect nitrogen that would otherwise be lost.
Has the ground been over used? Is it new tilled? I would do rye or hay. Also, see if one of the feedlots near you have poo. Horse stables always do. You can compost but the beauty of horse poo is often it has a lot of seeds ready to help you out!!! In the old days we would just spread it out and let it happen. As we used it on production fields we had to let it compost for a year just because of the seed issues. Just old ways of doing it. The straw and matter will help your field quickly. Waste organic matter like leaves and wood from the local town also if you can haul. I do not know how bad or good your ground is. Good luck. MAybe the ground needs to rest a year or so. Hay or cover crop mix and or pasture it.
PS, pigs do wonders to ot to!
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Scott Davison wrote:My partner and I just moved onto 40 acres in December in Klickitat Wa. We have a south and south east facing 7 acres we are planning to grow and want to build up the soil. It is rocky with oaks and grass at this time.
We have a mix of clover, daikon and rye I would like to introduce in order to build up organic material. I know I should have put cover crops in in the fall but I'm not worried about growing that area this summer so is it possible to plant an early spring cover crop using the mix I have or do I need to move towards a different cover crop? Scott-
Probably it will have 3 months to grow before the heat and drought kill it back. Is the grass sparse enough to not give good cover to the soil over the summer? Is the freeze/thaw snowmelt making enough disturbance to incorporate the seed? Is the soil too rocky for practical cultivation to incorporate the seed? There is the possibility that some of the plants will mature enough to reseed for a fall cover crop.
You have to do the cost/benefit analysis of trying it or saving the seed for fall but at least a partial trial would give you observational information for the future.
I really appreciate all the amazing feedback. I love the idea of testing an area to see what the results are then waiting until the "appropriate times" to get seed in the ground. I found out yesterday how wet the hill is when i got the tractor stuck while building hugekultur beds. Ill get pictures up soon.
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