Last fall I decided to try out winter wheat and annual rye (seperate gardens) as overwintering living mulches here in Ontario Canada (zone 5 I think).
It took decently well but now that spring has sprung im not sure how and when to kill it so that I can plant into that soil?
Do i just turn the soil? or will it die if i cut it back?
I feel like turning the soil is counterproductive to the grasses ability to make nice topsoil
sorry I imagine this is a dumb question but I couldnt find an answer anywhere
Turning the soil works, but just cutting it will kill wheat after it has started to grow upright. Not sure about rye. Whether tillage or just mowing would be best depends a lot on what you’re about to plant. Watermelon or squash would not need tillage except to make some little mounds. I would think something less vigorous, like peas, would benefit from tillage. I think some people on here don’t till ever. I would like to hear more about that.
I don’t feel that some tillage hurts the soil. The main thing is to never leave it bare. Always have something growing or have it mulched or both. I used henbit, dead nettle, and chickweed for ground cover last winter. It worked great except for in a new planting of strawberries. I think I could have ignored these useful weeds in a mature strawberry planting.
I used to plant oats for cover. I quit because the ground stayed wet too long. Some areas might benefit from this, but we almost always have wet springs.
Just roll those crops it once they starts to pre boot. The rolling crimps the stem at that stage of development, and terminates the plant. Then you can just drill seed your next crop, and not destroy the soil biome that has developed since the last till. The layer of rolled grass on top, and not tilling is scientifically proven to help decrease water consumption, while preserving the soil biome which feeds your crop through symbiosis. The healthy worm populations that develop from not tilling turn that rolled grass into the best fertalize money can buy, and that healthy worm population will move all that carbonorganic matter from the surface down into the soil below, tilling up to three times per year, while keeping your soil healthy. My only suggestion for next years cover crop would be a mixed species annual cover crop with legumes to help fix nitrogen. Check out Living Web Farms YouTube channel, and their video on mixed species annual cover crops, to learn how those crops can cut down on costs, while increasing productivity in your farm or garden.
Hope that helps!
posted 6 months ago
R. Steele wrote:Hello!
Just roll those crops it once they starts to pre boot. The rolling crimps the stem at that stage of development, and terminates the plant...
Hope that helps!
I'm down with everything but one question. What is rolling? Do I need a special tool and can I do a small area without the tool? This is my trial of cover crops so I want to make sure I like them before I buy special tools
A roller is a special tool, but very valuable to those of us who work No Till methods. It can be as simple as a blue barrel with lid that you push across the field while the barrel is half full of water (keeps the effort down but does the job).
Or it can be a purchased item from the farm store that is drag bar or three point attached, this type can be homemade if you have some large diameter steel pipe laying around along with some plate steel for the ends and flat bar for the pulling attachment.
Crimp rollers look sort of like a screw shaft, they have short height, spiraling ribs attached to the cylinder that fold the stalks down then pinch them so they don't stand back up.
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you can also just cut it very low to the soil surface and it will die back, a mower that you can set low is great as it will mulch it a bit, but you can also use a scythe or weed wacker. these will leave longish stems (depending how long the rye is) that will be like straw mulch if you don't till them in. if you till them in, or even stab them in with a shovel, they will digest into the soil over time. covering with a tarp will speed up digestion process and also assure rye is completely dead.
While making sure your cover crops don't thrive to outcompete your food crops is important, I think it is counterproductive to think of the process as killing anything. Killing the plants should be a byproduct of either rolling and crimping or chop-and-dropping.
Anything like tarping will kill the soil life you want to nurture. Tillage that involves inverting the soil does the same thing.
I would roll and crimp or chop-and-drop and drill in my seed. If you have enough organic matter to grow cover crops, the roots of the chopped or crimped cover crops will decompose in place, meaning that organic matter is already down where tillage would put it.
If you haven't yet, check out some of Bryant Redhawk's soil threads. They are quite comprehensive, and include information on how to make useful things like oxygen-brewed compost extracts to boost soil life populations.
It isn't exaggeration to say that boosting soil life makes the soil self-tilling. I would suggest focusing on feeding the soil. It will boost the health of plants in succession, nurturing seedlings to help them push up through your new mulch layer and helping them to outcompete any challengers.
But let us know how you proceed, and good luck.
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A short 2x4 with a rope on each side will crimp it. Hold each rope in each hand, use foot to push 2x4 down onto grass. If really thick, ive seen people add chain to weight down the 2x4. With this method they drop it down, not using their foot. They claim less compaction this way.
Fyi, this is the technique used to create the "alien " crop circles. Could add some fun for you if its a big area. Lol