Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Cover Crops - Not so Good!

Cover crops save landowners soil and money....except for maybe this year!

I typically put in my winter cover crops in early September, when the weather is starting to wane and precipitation starts to become a little more regular. However, we had temperatures into the 90s as late as October 20, and no real rain until about October 24. This year I chose New Zealand White Clover and (as usual) Austrian Field Peas as my cover crops for our "mini-woodlot". The rabbits got into the peas all last winter (which is fine - we don't hunt them at home, nor do we grow the peas for food), so I figured they would appreciate more peas this year. I have had mixed results with other varieties of clovers in past winters, so New Zealand White is a new crop for me. Anyway, here is the sorry data:

Typical Year:
  • Planting Date: Aug 15
  • Height/cover by full winter (Jan 1): approx. 8" / 75%
  • Height by harvest (June 1): approx 20" / 95%

Fall 2007:
  • Planting Date: Oct 15
  • Height / cover by full winter: 3" / 25%
  • Height / cover by harvest: ???

So, without even getting to the end of the winter, I can already tell you that the plan next year will have to be:

  • light application of pot ash,
  • planting by September 1, and
  • twice-weekly watering/irrigation until fall rains begin.

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