getting rid of winter rye

spinachqueen(z6NC)March 13, 2006

Boy, did I ever make a mistake planting a cover crop of winter rye on my raised beds. I have turned it in two times and the stuff is still growing! What can I do. There are 10 4X12 ft. beds to deal with and they're all still showing lots of green rye. Also, I mulched with straw , trying to shade out the rye growth but that doesn't seem to slow it down. It's almost time to plant and I am desperate! My husband actually got out the little Mantis that we never use and turned a couple of the beds. This was painful for me to watch , The plow just compacted the soil and didn't stop the rye. ADVICE IS NEEDED HERE!

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I can't really give advice, although I had the same experience about 5 years ago. I had to turn it under several times and that didn't fit in with my timing either.
This year, I planted "cereal" rye mixed with Austrian Field Peas as a cover crop, but only on large flat areas that will be planted to late crops (corn, okra, peanuts, melons).
I'll be watching this thread closely because many posters have said Rye is easily killed and you can no-till plant right through it. You and I want to know what they know.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 5:43PM
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If the roots of the rye are still tightly clasped by soil the plants will continue to grow and if that is happening the soil is not being broken up well enough, and maybe you are turning that soil when it is too wet.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 6:50AM
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jsfink(z6b PA)

You can smother it with plastic mulch. IRT (infrared transmitting mulch) lets is the sun's rays which warm the soil, but blocks other parts of the light spectrum which the rye needs to grow. I think black plastic mulch will also work the same way. Cover the beds with plastic, and plant through holes that you cut. If you wait (and are able to wait) for the rye to grow to its heading/flowering state and cut it down at that stage of its growth, it will be killed. You can then plant through the cut rye, and leave it as a no till mulch, without turning under. This works if the bed is for late spring planting of hot weather vining vegetables, like tomatoes, but not early spring, cool weather root crops.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 9:30PM
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Thanks for all the advice. We did turn the rye in when the beds were moist ( not wet) and maybe this is part of the problem. I know that we can plant the tomatoes, potatoes, etc. with no problem but the lettuces, spinach, onions , chard etc. may not be so easy.

If I cover the beds with the plastic now , do you think that the rye would be dead by May 1st or about that time? If I turn the beds again right now, the original rye will just be back on top as it hasn't broken down at all in the last couple of weeks.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 12:39PM
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Never, ever use plastic sheeting in your garden. Yes it will kill stuff, and since plastic also prevents air exchange between the atmosphere and the soil your soil soon becomes anaerobic and the good bacteria will die off and anaerobic, mostly pathogens (disease causing), bacteria will take over.
Just be sure the roots of the rye loose contact with the soil and all of the rye is buried in the soil.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 6:59AM
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safariman(z6 NJ)

Well, i am in the middle of getting rid of mine. A book i read says "mow the cover crop (he's talking about winter rye specifically) and allow three weeks for decomposition."

Since I first tilled with a walk behind and now am hand spading the rest, that dude obviously never tried the stuff he was writing about, or was keeping a few important secrets...

Can anyone else offer any insight/experience?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 6:56PM
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Every spring when I mow my Field Rye, Winter Rye, "Secale cereale" it takes 3 or 4 times for the rye to die, but that is easier than tilling it in with the rototiller although more difficult than turning by hand (small areas).
I am surprised than in New Jersey you would be turning the Rye in now, mines only as tall as it was last fall when the first snow fall stopped growth, and the soil is still too wet to turn, even though it is sand.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 7:16AM
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safariman(z6 NJ)

well kimmsr,

we have had about 2 weeks with no rain, and I want to get my early things in like spinach, etc. The soil was nice and brown and not cloddy so I mowed once and turned with a tiller and then spaded to get the rocks and to be thorough with the rye. My ankle is hurting from all the shovel-stepping! No harm in starting this early, right? Plus how else are we supposed to get our cold tolerant things going? Wait till May?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 9:27AM
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Turned that d.....stuff in for the 3rd time last Saturday. Today is the first time since that I have been able to sit or ride in the car....the ole back was out for days! NEVER again will I plant any type of rye anywhere near my garden! Whats worse, I only got half the beds turned before the rheumatiz set in!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 4:10PM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

I must be one of the lucky ones because after great success with planting winter rye last fall I'm sowing it again this week.
I planted it about this time last year and it grew to maybe 4 inches high before winter hit and by April /May it was 3 to 4 feet tall. I weed whacked it down and then went over it with the mower a few times before shallow tilling it in.
Less than an hour time all together.
Besides hand pulling a few clumps none of the rye regrew and I was able to plant a week or two later with great success this year.
I would like to try other cover crops but this is the only one that is available at my local nursery.
Just wanted to put in my two cents to defend this sometimes maligned cover crop.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 4:06PM
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I give rye a thumbs up also. Have benn fall seeding it for years, along with red clover. Never have a problem, in the larger plots, just brush hog and till using a 60" tiller. The raised beds are more difficult and I have stopped using rye in them. I use fall seeded oats which winter kill and lesve a cover on the soil. I have also done the fall seede oats in the garlic beds after garlic is planted.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 12:28PM
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fertilizersalesman(z6 PA)

I plant oats this time of year, it grows up, then freezes off. In spring it is a nice multch that I plant into no till.

This only works if you are far enough north to cave a cold winter.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 1:16PM
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I switched to wheat from rye because of rye's allelopathy to germination of other seeds. Wheat is easier to turn over in spring also. Frost-killed oats are great too, but I never have any whole oats on hand.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 7:27AM
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Which seeds have you noticed to have poor germination following rye?? I havent noticed any problem.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 9:56PM
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Several times after tilling in a well-established rye-patch, I had poor or non-germination of small seeds planted soon afterwards. Rye has a mild allelopathy, though I believe if turned over early before the roots are strongly established the effect is minimal.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 8:27PM
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Rye must flower before mowing or stalk chopping will kill it.
Never plant rye if you want to plant the next crop early next spring.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 6:44PM
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I've noted the alleopathic bit too.Transplants put into freshly turned over rye had stunted growth vs. those into the same area of bed,but without a rye wintercover.Reading seems to indicate a two week period to avoid that,but I don't recall the source.

In zone 6 I like it as a cover.Weed wacking and using the growth as either mulch or compost elsewhere,then mulching the stubble, works,in the main;sometimes there are persistent stalks.
Oats are often recommended since they winterkill,but IME that's not always the case.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 8:58AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I never tried the winter rye. I tried hairy vetch for the first time last year. I have raised beds and no mechanical way of turning over. I wanted something that was easy to turn over, breaks down well and wouldn't keep coming back and this was what Johnny's Seeds recommended to me. It worked great. I got germination in early October last year, it wintered over came up early and grew well then I turned it in about 2 weeks before I planted tomatoes. I even sowed some in large containers and it was easy to turn it over with just a trowel.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 6:43AM
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Anyone got ideas for cover crops for zone 9? I can't depend on winter killing and we don't have a tiller. Actually I might be better looking for something that summer would kill.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 9:28PM
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If anyone who has left over winter rye seeds they no longer want to mess with. Let me know as I would gladly take them off your hands for a few bucks or some veggie seeds.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 3:27AM
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The zone i am in is also zone 6 but I garden as if it were zone 5. I mentioned that because here in zone 5/6 we usually turn the rye over tilling rather shallow about May 1. i let the sun warm and dry soil and up turned plants for a week. Assuming it is dry enough I add whatever base fertilizer needed about may 10 , and till deeply so that plants are turned under . I hit it a couple more times and plant about may 25. One of the folks mentioned that your soil may have been too damp. I m with him or her .And maybe the rye is growing so well that it needs a little extra tilling. Do your beds have drain holes?Even though i till mine a few times , i could get by easily with the second tilling .Since you till in March I will bet dampness is the culprit. I think one of the folks said they get the same results and they till again and the soil turns hard. This is typical of too damp soil especially if there is clay in it.Happy Gardening Johnny

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 3:20PM
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I am fairly new to gardening. A friend gave me winter rye last fall for green manure and weed control, which produced a good crop. But then due to family events, I had to be away spring and summer, did not put in a vegetable garden or deal with the rye, and now I have a garden full of brown, seeded rye, grown tall but now fallen over to the ground. What is best to do at this point? It is nearly fall. Do I leave it be for the winter, but then what do I do in the spring? Do I cover with brown plastic for the winter? Try to cut and till in (with or without the cuttings and seeds?) - if so, in fall or spring? It is not huge, a 15'x15' plot, and I don't have a bush hog, etc. Any help or advice greatly appreciated!!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 4:51AM
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Sounds like the rye has finished growing. Try to harvest the grain or it will volunteer and you will have rye problems. If it is too late and the seed has already dropped, mow and till and let the seed come up. If it does not, you can plant a fall greens garden. If it does, you will have a battle on your hands. You can fight it or just plant the bed in rye again and do not plan on planting there again until late spring after it fully blooms. Plant a warm season crop like tomato, corn, okra, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: GardenForNutrition

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 9:16PM
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"If it does, you will have a battle on your hands."

Really, 15' square of volunteered rye? One hour with a spade in march or april will easily take care of it.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 10:10AM
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