What’s the # 1 way to build your soil?
Your farm should be GREEN all year around. Your ultimate goal should be to have something growing on it 24/7. Every time you are growing a crop you are harvesting the suns energy and translocating it into your soil; in the form of plant residues, plant root sugars, photosynthesis, etc.
- There is no excuse not have a cover crop in every field/ garden at some point during the year.
- A cover crop must be viewed with as much importance as the main crop you grow.
- You wouldn’t plant your tomato crop 1 ½ months late cover crops are no different.
- So how do you make cover crops fit into your rotation & budget?
Decide what will fit into your program.
Attract beneficial insects: buckwheat, sweet clover, and red clover.
Tolerate wet soils: sweet clover, red clover, annual ryegrass, cereal rye, wheat, and oats.
Tolerate heat and drought: cowpea, hairy vetch, sweet clover, Sorghum Sudan grass, buckwheat, barley, teff.
Cold tolerant: Cereal rye, wheat, spelt, triticale, winter pea, and sweet clover.
Quick forage or can be grazed: oats, forage radishes/ turnips, rye, ryegrass, teff for dry fields, Sorghum Sudan grass, and barley.
Cover crops for organic matter (high C:N): Sorghum Sudan grass, rye, ryegrass, triticale, oats, wheat, spelt, and barley.
Cover crops for nitrogen (low C:N): cowpea, winter pea, red clover, sweet clover, hairy vetch, alfalfa.
Reduce compaction (deep rooted): Sorghum Sudan grass, ryegrass-5-6', tillage radish-3-30', sweet clover-deep taproot, cereal rye and oats-30".
If used properly cover crops will be a great addition to your farm/ garden. The will help build organic matter, mineralize nitrogen in a plant available form, uptake micro-nutrients, reduce erosion, increase water holding capacity, and the list could go on and on.
Questions about the best cover crops for your farm? Email me at Orin@fertrell.com
Orin is on the agronomy team at Fertrell. Specializing in row crops and larger farming ventures on the soils side, he runs a 50-cow organic dairy farm as well.