Alfalfa and barley

yuliana(9a)January 20, 2009

Honestly, guys, ladies. I don't want to be one of the pests that always ask questions and have nothing to offer to others. I am still in a planning phase, we will be moving to the property in 2 or 3 months. So now I am nothing but obsessed. Anyway, if you tolerate a couple of questions.

I read about health benefits of alfalfa and barley. So, I ordered the seeds today. From what I understand, alfalfa is a perrenial, and barley, well, don't know. :) I am planning on building raised beds, lasagna gardens when we move for other veggies. Where should I plant alfalfa and barley though?? And when??? I searched the forum, but could not find an answer. Thank you for being so nice and patient.

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You can't ask too many questions! We love questions almost as much as we love pictures. Maybe more.

Alfalfa and barley are both crops typically gown in large fields so make sure you plant them where they'll get plenty of sun. Because you are interested in the health benefits I'm guessing you won't want to use pesticides on them so you'll have to watch them closely. Maybe someone who's grown them in their garden can give you some ideas for organic controls of pests.

Are you growing the alfalfa for sprouts or do you plan to eat the mature plants? In the Midwest it's grown as hay for cattle feed and not typically eaten by people.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 9:18PM
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Kate, I have an evil plan. I want to get a few chickens, feed them alfalfa and get omega-3 eggs in return. ;)

But, yes, for my diet, that will be sprouts. Definitely organic. I was thinking barley on a small scale, just enough to get my own heirloom seeds and small young leaves, then the rest to go into the compost.

The problem with growing these plants, is that because they are not common, there is no instructions on when to plant and how to care.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 11:16AM
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athagan(z9a N/C Fl)

The reason you can't find instructions on how to grow barley and alfalfa is that neither are well suited to Florida conditions. From what I can recall reading back when I was looking for the very same info is that barley doesn't like acid sandy soils nor does it care for high humidity. Alfalfa apparently can be successfully grown as a short-lived perennial in northernmost Florida, but I could not find anything on it for the peninsula. It doesn't like high humidity either.

I did try the alfalfa and while it grew for several months I can't say that it ever thrived.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 2:35PM
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Alan, thanks for the encouragement! Well, since I already have the seeds, I will try them in raised beds and will watch the PH closely. If they don't like humidity, maybe I plant them in September? I see ads on craigslist people selling alfalfa hay, but maybe it's not the same thing.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 9:12AM
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athagan(z9a N/C Fl)

Lots of alfalfa hay sold in Florida. All imported from up north.

If you want to grow your own I'd suggest looking at perennial peanut. It's very close to alfalfa in protein and nutrient composition and likes our Florida conditions.

If you do try the barley it's going to be a winter crop almost certainly. EDIS has info on growing small grains like wheat, oats, and rye. I'd use that for the barley. Please do post what your results are.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 9:59AM
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annafl(z9b/10a Sarasota)

Yuliana, I commend your intent to use sustainable methods! However, alfalfa and barley may not give you the best (if any) yields in our state. Have you considered letting the chickens free range on grass/ grubs? It is my understanding that there are alpha omega 3's to be had from animals fed on pasture and bugs. We have lots of grass year round and certainly we have grubs and bugs! Alternatively, if they are not pastured, consider feeding them your leftover greens and vegetable kitchen scraps, and move their runs enough to dine on your yard's allotment of bugs and grubs.

I am dying to have a few girls myself. Could you show us pics of yours and tell us what kind they are? Thanks.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 10:29AM
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Just wondering how the barley turned out. I have a friend in North Florida that grows alfalfa every year and has been for many. He's closer to Georgia where the soil is more clay based. Down here in the beach sand we grow Bahia for hay.

For your chickens, try a little brown top millet in the summer and winter rye in the winter. I've been doing this for a couple years and the chickens and pigs both love it.

We're going to try a pasture blend this fall, hopefully all grows well

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 9:38PM
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