We finished the bulk of the planting last week, and good thing, as field work is definitely out for a few days. I expect it will be Thursday at the earliest before we can get equipment back into the fields. Luckily we spent much of our time last week on weed control so we're in pretty good shape.
I seeded down several fields last Thursday that we're not going to use this year; just in time I'd say. I had one field we wanted to seed down to buckwheat but it was far too wet and now it's even wetter. Guess we'll hold on to that thought for a while.
In deciding which cover crop to use, there are several parameters that I use when picking a crop to plant. If I want to rot sod down like when I rent a new field, I'll plant buckwheat. Buckwheat grows fast and keeps the soil moist so the sod gets a chance to rot down. Old ground (ground that's been in row crops) gets something else. For example last week when deciding what to plant I wanted a crop that will require little maintenance, adds organic matter and nitrogen back to the soil and grows rapidly this time of year. I wanted a crop that would be thick enough to hold the soil in place in our summer downpours and also outgrow the summer weeds. So I chose annual alfalfa and oats. I seeded the oats to act as a nurse crop for the alfalfa. The oats will protect the tender young alfalfa seedlings while they get established, then we'll mow the oats and let the alfalfa take over. I seed ~ 3 acres on Thursday with this mix and the rain will help it germinate. Once we get some sun, the mix will really take off.
There are so many cover crops to choose from and so many uses that I don't get to plant all that I want to. We'll seed down around twenty acres this year but I usually use two or three different mixes and call it good. One new field will get a crop of buckwheat then probably oats and a legume. Sort of a one two punch; we'll rot some sod with the buckwheat, and then add nitrogen and organic matter with the grain/legume mix. It'll have lots of growth before winter to protect the soil.
Soon it will be time to plant the fall cover crops where we can. I think we'll plant our turnips a little earlier this year, say the middle to end of July. We should get some really nice roots before the cold temps settle in. Although the deer will eat the tops, they prefer the roots. They'll feed on them all winter. Maybe we'll do several plantings to see what the best time frame for getting big roots will be.
Until next week, Brian
Since our photographer had hand surgery, here are some older pictures of things that happen this time of year at the farm. Hopefully we'll have some new ones soon! -Daria, the webmaster