smart people dont plant cover crops

slowpoke_gardenerMarch 1, 2012

They buy mushroom compost. I just finished tilling in the grain rye in the north garden, only 4 more spots to go. It seems harder each year to get the garden ready for planting. The Elbon rye is so hard to till, even with a heavy tiller.

I have to start too early each year. The soil is so wet and heavy it would never dry in time to plant if I did not stir it up and the wind and sun do it work. I hate doing the soil that way, but if I don't it will be so hot and dry by the time I can plant that nothing will produce.


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And unless you have an 8 ft fence, the deer think you have planted them a winter smorgasborg. Then when the cover crop gets tilled under, they come back and eat your lettuce, spinach, beets, peas, everything, even okra. We gave up planting a cover crop after two winters. Ours was winter wheat, just too tempting. The deer left our summer garden alone until last summer when they ate the corn and pole beans mostly in July and August.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 9:21PM
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Mulberry, the deer lived in my garden all winter. My son lives across the hwy. He says he sees them about every morning when he goes to work, some times they bed down just across the fence. I will have a hard time keeping them out of the garden. This year I have not mower the rye any, the deer kept it eaten down almost like a lawn. I have 4 more areas to till in and get ready for planting.

I plan on putting up an electric fence again this year. I don't like the way any cheap fence looks but I have no choice.

I really do like a cover crop but its just too much work.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:39PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

We have the opposite problem. We planted a food plot for the deer and they won't eat it. I guess I spoiled them by feeding them grain all summer. I wish our deer would come eat the food plot we planted for them and if they don't I won't plant one next year. I think I planted it too close to the dog yard, so even though the dogs are inside sleeping at night, the deer still won't come to the food plot. The rabbits do, but they don't eat it fast enough. With all this warm weather, I guess maybe we'll cut it and rototill it into the ground to improve that clay behind the barn because if we don't weed-eat it down to the ground soon, it will be hard to cut.

I only plant winter cover crops in the fenced gardens whewn I plant them at all because generally the deer eat it all if it is outside the fence. They even eat the winter rye lawn grass in the years when we overseed the lawn with it. If they eat it early enough, they essentially tear it up out of the ground by its roots before it is well-rooted, leaving bald patchy spots in the middle of the winter rye grass lawn.

I love cover crops, but they are a lot of work. I often just grow them in a non-gardening area where they may or may not get eaten by wildlife, cut them with the weedeater and throw them on the compost pile. They eventually make it into a garden bed after they become compost. I am going to plant a patch of buckwheat in an area just outside the garden that is unfenced, but I may put up a temporary fence to keep the deer out of it.

With all the warm weather and heavy rainfall this fall and winter, weeds sprouted everywhere in my mulch in the raised beds and in the pathways. I let them grow until they were a decent size, then I pulled them up and threw them on the compost pile, building it to gargantuan heights the last couple of months. I can't let them grow on endlessly or their roots grow down through the weedblock fabric in the paths and beds and then they are hard to remove. I love having the weeds for the compost pile, though I don't especially enjoying pulling them up and carrying them to the pile. This has been a banner year for prickly lettuce and henbit, but I've been careful to pull all of them from the garden before they go to seed. I leave the henbit in the pastures alone because it is a butterfly magnet.

We had deer coming here to eat all winter, but they now have disappeared as they generally do about this time of year. They'll come back in April, though, and will wear out a path walking around the garden trying to find a way to get through the fence.

Larry, I hate my garden fence. It is just T-posts and woven wire on the bottom level and chicken wire for the upper 4 to 6 feet. We put it up piecemeal, making it taller and taller as the deer became more and more of an issue. I wish I had a beautiful fence instead of an ugly one. However, even an ugly fence keeps the deer out. My garden fence is so tall now that my friends call it a prison fence. I don't care what they call it as long as it is keeping the deer and the bobcats out of my garden, which it is doing. Sometimes a bobcat walks in through the open garden gate, but it runs out as soon as it spots a human.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Dawn, I will try the same kind of fence this year that worked for me last year. My old style of making a electric fence some times would arc or short out. If the conditions were just right I could look out the window and see a blue-red arc cutting through the plastic insulators. That makes me uneasy so I did not build that type of fence after moving to this house.

I try to insulate everything from the ground now by dropping a piece of capped electrical PVC down over a 1/2" rebar (expanded end down). I tie a piece of electric fence wire around the rebar about 5" above the ground to keep the PVC from toughing the ground.

Last year was not a good year to compare to, but I never saw an arc or detected any voltage leak to ground even in wet conditions. the deer stopped getting into the north garden the first night I installed the fence. They then moved to the south garden, I install another fence around the south garden and they immediately stopped getting into the south garden also, and I never even hooked the charger to that fence. In the fall I removed the fence and soon the deer were back in both gardens.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 3:39PM
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I tried growing one in the big bed this year (hairy vetch) and it really was a mess to clear out. Now I am just going to get compost (either made or mushroom bought) My plants are a tad late getting in the ground clearing that out. (that and flu I have had)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:06AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I planted hairy vetch and I will use it again. I let it flower; it looked better than weeds that would have grown there. It was in my tomato area; when the tomatoes got bigger I cut it back. There are u tube videos on how to use it.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 10:52AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I do think hairy vetch is a beautiful cover crop. This summer I've used buckwheat, which also is pretty and attracts a lot of beneficial insects. This fall, I'll plant clover and rye.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:08AM
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If I plant a cover crop this year I am planning on planting something I can buy by the pound. Rye grass is the first in line for "Bang for the Buck". I can buy as much or as little as I want. I like grain rye best because of the great amount of organic mass it produces and the fact that I dont have any blooms to deal with. ( out little dog is allergic to bee stings). Because I have such a "wet soil" problem in early spring I may just try fall mustard and till it in much earlier than I would till in a cover crop. I have never tried Rape for a cover crop but it may be worth a try.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:33AM
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I don't think I will be cover cropping this year. I had to reduce the size of the garden due to time constraints and it is now too small to do that with! LOL

Mushroom compost here I come... :)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 1:22PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

If I don't plant a winter cover crop, then Mother Nature will just plant one for me. It is easier for me to either mulch beds so heavily that weeds cannot sprout or plant a cover crop thickly for the same reason, than to have to remove Mother Nature's cover crop of cool-season weeds in the winter. I'd rather grow something I choose, than the persistent cool-season weeds she chooses.

The deer will be hungry this year, so for a cool-season cover crop I may plant stuff they like to eat. Of course, they cannot get into the garden to eat it because of the anti-deer prison fence, but then I could cut the cover crop occasionally and put it on the compost pile and they would eat it that night as they wander around looking for munchies.

We are going to overseed the lawn with winter rye grass to provide a nice sea of green around our buildings, both because my eyes NEED to see green in winter, and thick, green, water-filled rye grass would slow down any wildfire approaching our house.

I think I am going to direct seed pansies, violas and other cool season flowers in one flower border inside the veggie garden fence so I can have some winter blooms to look at too. Of course, it is likely henbit will sprout this fall. I know many people hate henbit, but I love it because it provides food for the little flying insects in winter and early spring. Last year we had henbit blooming by December and the bees and butterflies loved it.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 1:40PM
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