Grow Your Own Nitrogen

Grow Your Own Nitrogen

Soil & Compost
Nitrogen (N) helps plants use carbohydrates to gain energy, like certain foods we eat help us to gain energy. Nitrogen controls how plants take their form and how they function inside, and nitrogen helps plants make protein that help them grow strong and healthy. Humans and animals benefit from eating vegetables and plants that are rich in nitrogen because proteins are passed on to humans and animals when they eat vegetables and plants. Leguminous plants such as beans, peas, clover, alfalfa and vetch actually generate nitrogen in the soil. Rhizobia bacteria that grow on the roots of these plants take nitrogen from the air and make it available to the plant. In turn, the plant gives the Rhizobia the carbohydrates they need to grow. This give and take between different…
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Winter Rye

Winter Rye

Soil & Compost
The hardiest of cereals, rye can be seeded later in fall than other cover crops and still provide considerable dry matter, an extensive soil-holding root system, significant reduction of nitrate leaching and exceptional weed suppression. Inexpensive and easy to establish, rye outperforms all other cover crops on infertile, sandy or acidic soil or on poorly prepared land. It is widely adapted, but grows best in cool, temperate zones. Taller and quicker-growing than wheat, rye can serve as a windbreak and trap snow or hold rainfall over winter. It overseeds readily into many high-value and agronomic crops and resumes growth quickly in spring, allowing timely killing by rolling, mowing or herbicides. Pair rye with a winter annual legume such as hairy vetch to offset rye’s tendency to tie up soil nitrogen…
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Oats

Oats

Soil & Compost
Oats are not particularly winter hardy. If you need a low-cost and reliable fall cover that winterkills in Hardiness Zone 6 and colder and much of Zone 7, oats is the cover crop for you. Spring-planted oats are used for green manure, while fall-planted oats provide winter-killed ground cover. The residue is incorporated before the early planting of vegetables. Oats are particularly useful in rotations with vegetable crops because they grow quickly and are easily killed. They are an excellent choice to mix with legumes, like hairy vetch and peas, for forage, erosion control and weed suppression. Oats are a wonderful nutrient catch cover crop. It takes up excess Nitrogen (N) and small amounts of Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) when planted early enough. Late-summer plantings can absorb as much…
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Buckwheat

Buckwheat

Soil & Compost
Buckwheat is a fast-growing summer cover crop; a succulent that can be grown as a green manure because it adds nutrients and organic matter to the soil. It smothers weeds, protect the soil surface and provides habitat for pollinating and other beneficial insects. Buckwheat seed can germinate within days of planting, especially if the soil is warmer than 55 degrees. Because it doesn't require much water and tolerates poor fertility, buckwheat succeeds in many less than ideal places in the garden. Buckwheat does not like the shade or soggy soil. It improves the short-term condition of soil and readies it for planting. It is particularly efficient at taking up phosphorus from the soil and storing it in its tissues. Because it grows so fast, it is ideal for planting in…
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White Sweet Clover

White Sweet Clover

Soil & Compost
Sweet clovers (both white and yellow) are excellent soil-builders because they have a deep taproot that extends through the soil profile which takes up nutrients and minerals that can be used by crops. What is the difference between white (Melilotus alba) and yellow (Melilotus officinalis) sweet clovers? The biennial yellow sweet clover takes two years to produce a flowering plant. The first year, the yellow sweet clover grows in a rosette. After a vernalisation period it produces a shoot and flowers. It can produce up to 2.5 tons of dry matter and can grow up to 24 inches. If conditions are favorable, it can reach up to 8 feet in the second year. Below ground, its tap root can extend down 5 feet by the end of spring. White clover…
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Yellow Sweet Clover

Yellow Sweet Clover

Soil & Compost
Melilotus officinalis or Yellow Sweetclover was the king of green manures and grazing legumes in the South and later throughout the Midwest in the first half of this century. Sweetclover is used as a cover crop most commonly now in the Plains region. This cool-season biennial is an expert at mining insoluble minerals like potassium and phosphorus from the lower levels of the soil and bringing them to the surface. Its long tap root also helps loosen hard, packed soils. Says SARE... Within a single season on even marginally fertile soils, this tall-growing biennial produces abundant biomass and moderate amounts of nitrogen as it thrusts a taproot and branches deep into subsoil layers. Given fertile soils and a second season, it lives up to its full potential for nitrogen and…
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Hairy Vetch

Hairy Vetch

Soil & Compost
It is said that few legumes match Vicia villosa or "hairy vetch" for spring residue production or nitrogen contribution. Widely adapted and winter hardy through Hardiness Zone 4 and into Zone 3 (with snow cover), hairy vetch is a top nitrogen provider. The cover grows slowly in fall, but root development continues over winter. Growth quickens in spring, when hairy vetch becomes a sprawling vine up to 12 feet long. Height rarely exceeds 3 feet. Its abundant, viney vegetation can be a benefit and a challenge. The stand smothers spring weeds, however, and can help you replace all or most nitrogen fertilizer needs for late-planted crops. Hairy vetch ahead of no-till corn was also the preferred option for risk averse farmers in a three-year Maryland study that also included fallow…
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Crimson Clover

Crimson Clover

Uncategorized
Trifolium incarnatum, the botanical name for Crimson Clover means "blood red". Crimson clover is a cool-season annual (in southern states) that is relatively easy to grow and is more tolerant of poor soils than other clovers. A benefit of crimson clover is it is relatively inexpensive. It is less than half the price of perennial clovers, but quite productive. Crimson when plowed in after the spring, provides an excellent source of nitrogen for a summer planted crops. Requirements Soil: Loam, neutral, well-drained, adapts to soil of low fertility Climate: Any, but not winter hardy north of New Jersey Planting Per acre: 30 pounds Per 1000 square feet: 1 pound Seed Depth: 1/2 inch Season Sow: Fall or Spring Turn under: Spring or Fall See Also... Grow Your Own Nitrogen Green…
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5 Easy Steps to Sustainable Gardening

5 Easy Steps to Sustainable Gardening

Organic Gardening, Sustainable Landscaping
1) Observe your space Where is the sun / shade? (watch the patterns during the growing season throughout the day) How is the land sloped? (south faces warmer & sunnier than north - use to your advantage!) Is it windy? (plant some trees or shrubs to act as a windbreak!) 2) Think about what you like to eat and see! plant some of your favorites! choose varieties that are suited for your climate (local garden stores usually specialize in these!) plan plantings that compliment each other (grow sunflowers as a trellis for pole beans!) 3) Soil is the start work soil in spring only when it begins to dry (not when soggy you'll lose important soil structure!) add Organic Matter! add Organic Matter! add Organic Matter! (in the form of…
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