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Cover Crops
What is best for the Southwest
July 21, 2015
10:14 pm
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Marilyn
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July 21, 2015
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Looking for ideas on cover crop for the garden, my raised beds are pretty good but still a bit to much clay. I also want to plant something in an area with a lot of weeds & hard packed soil.

July 22, 2015
11:51 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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Hi Marylin, from your profile:

I live outside of Snowflake AZ on a 200 plus acre ranch. Elevation is 5,300 zone 5b.

You must have harsh winters, being in zone 5b.  How much snow do you get and how cold does it get?

Unfortunately, I'm no expert on cover crops, but I've been doing a lot of reading.  We've been looking at growing some white Sonoran wheat, but don't know whether it can take the cold.

What are you growing now? 

I've read that rye can work great for creating organic matter (lots of deep root mass).

I also want to plant something in an area with a lot of weeds & hard packed soil.

We only plant native bushes or trees in uncultivated areas unless we clear and dig planting holes with amended soil.  We're trying that with potatoes and zucchini in a new planting area.  So far it's looking pretty good and I'll have to post some pics. 

Daikon radishes are supposed to be good at breaking up soil too.

How big are your beds and the new area?

August 1, 2015
6:14 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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I just moved several posts here to http://highdesertfood.org/inde.....snowflake/ -- trying to keep this place organized 🙂

Just watched Phil the Smiling Gardener's video on cover crops:

http://www.smilinggardener.com.....or-gardens

He talks about vetch, rye and clover.

I've been trying to grow clover for several years and just this year white clover has been coming up in the hoophouse.  I can't even remember putting clover seeds into the hoophouse, but must have.   It's not a dense cover and I've just been letting it grow (except where WWOOFers pulled it).  Hoping it'll expand as it will turn into a perennial garden once the plastic goes bad.  This fall it's 4 years and I'm surprised it lasted so long.

About 5 years ago we bought a bunch of cover crop mixes for the gardens, but I think the critters ate the seeds, never got anything.

I'm determined to try this again.   Phil said to check what local farmers grow and we don't really have any except Rhodes' Kingman Farms off Stockton Hill Road.  I'm hoping to get some info from them about their growing practices and to see whether they sell alfalfa to locals. 

August 6, 2015
1:31 am
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Marilyn
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I think we'll order a mix from peaceful valley for the garden & a variety for the area I want to improve. We bought for our pastures a DryLand Pasture mix its done pretty well with the rain we had in July (5 3/4 inches ) but pretty dry now. I attached it so hope it comes through. I think the key for the pasture was the rain, we only broadcast & then run a harrow. I've read about frost seeding as the ground opens up with the frost, we no longer have use of the harrow so we have drug a heavy wire cattle panel behind the tractor.

So much to do I get overwhelmed. Lately I've just tried to stay ahead of the weeds. I don't know what this weed we have is but the stem gets 1/2 in. around unless you keep it down. I only have a battery weed eater now but I think we'll buy a lawn mower for next year. Been doing paths so I can at least see snakes (one thing I really miss about Kodiak AK no snakes!)

Everything is an experimental crap shoot!!

August 6, 2015
4:08 am
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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I finally didn't have to approve your post, so I think it's working properly with only the first post by a new member being moderated. That was hard!

It sounds like you tried to post an attachment, but it doesn't show up.  Did you actually hit the "upload" button after selecting the file?  I have to add an FAQ here.

I can imagine how busy you are.  For us the problem is that it's so hot during the day, not only do I not feel like working hard (screening dirt etc.), but it's too hot to plant, transplant, water, etc.   Two hours at night just isn't enough time.   Just finished transplanting a few trees and palms into bigger pots (had a flashlight), no moonlight right now.  I'm determined to set up a new water tank with irrigation lines tomorrow during the day, we'll see how that goes.

Weeds: We've always hand weeded or used the hula hoe, but this year had so many weeds due to the nice spring rains.  A customer had already paid a lot for weeding and we were less than half done, so it was time to get a weed eater.  Promptly broke the customer's car's rear window with a rock!  The weed eater went back to Lowe's and from now on we'll pull the weeds.   Just got done with the customer's weeding (free of charge to pay for the window.) Fortunately weeds really aren't a big problem in most years.

We also got a lot of weeds in the hoophouse because we didn't pay attention and let some weeds on the sides go to seed ...  Learned a lesson there!

If you want to identify a weed, please post a picture or two.  

I think the main reason we haven't had much luck with cover crops in previous years is that we're so tired of watering by fall.  But now we have irrigation and timers, so we'll try it again.  Still don't know what to get though ...

the rain we had in July (5 3/4 inches )

Wow!  We rarely get that much all year!   I'm happy we got some rain every month this year.

August 9, 2015
7:46 pm
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Marilyn
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Well I will try the upload again, the pdf was too big. Think that txt did it.

We got more rain yesterday 1/2". Spent all morning getting plastic over the bed where the vegs have to stay warm at night we are getting below 60 now. Everything is really late since July was cooler with all the rain. Too much rain for the garden but great for the pastures! The best is to get a bit of rain spread out. The only thing doing really good are the sunflowers most are at least 8 ft tall. Hopefully they will bloom.

I can't work when it's too hot I'm too old (60 btw) & still have too much Alaskan blood.

I'll have to post a pic of the weed, the raised bed mostly have bindweed but it's not too bad to pull up.

Seems around here I need to lay eyes on most everything everyday, if I blow it off I always regret it!! I'm always saying something about learning a lesson then try to remember to write it in my notebook.

August 18, 2015
7:38 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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I'm trying to find out what the upload limit is, waiting for support on that.  Thanks for posting the text file, an excerpt:

Bunchgrass with germination in 5-10 days.
 One of the most widely used grasses and is adaptable to a wide variety of soils and climate conditions. It is leafy and fine stemmed.

20% Smooth Brome, Lincoln
Sod Forming grass with germination in 10-14 days
.  Smooth brome is resistant to drought and extremes in temperature. Lincoln smooth brome is the most widely used of the cultivated brome grasses.

15% Paiute Orchardgrass
Bunchgrass with germination in 14-21 days.
One of the earliest species to exhibit growth in the spring, making tremendous forage potential during cool conditions. Performs well on different textured soils. Is a great forage and hay producer.

15% Hycrest Crested Wheatgrass
Bunchgrass with germination in 14-21 days. 
A hybrid cross between Standard and Desert wheatgrass, resulting in a plant with excellent seedling vigor that establishes quickly. It is taller and has higher forage yield potential than its parents.

I'd like to see what the grasses look like, have to look them up sometime.

I wish we knew WHEN it will rain so that we could get seeds out then.  Like you, we got some rain too, but this last week was another scorcher. 

Spent all morning getting plastic over the bed where the vegs have to stay warm at night we are getting below 60 now

We're still in the mid to high 70s at night.  There's no way that I'd cover veggies unless I could keep them from freezing (tomatoes and peppers) or it's for pest control and I leave the cover on for a while.  Especially with plastic it would cause certain death for the veggies as the morning sun would have fried them by the time I get out there.  

I've covered pots with shade cloth or agribon, covered the pot with the lettuce seedlings yesterday again.  They're not exactly looking great.  Thought it was a good idea to plant them when it rained and was cool a week ago. Oh well ... good thing I have more seedlings inside and tons of seed.

I can't work when it's too hot I'm too old (60 btw) & still have too much Alaskan blood.

I'm 57 and I blame my German blood 🙂  Can't wait for afternoon temps to drop below 100 F again, low 90s would be real nice.  When I moved here I had no plans for ever spending a summer here.   Just glad it's dry heat!

August 23, 2015
5:29 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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Nice pics and explanations:

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Inter.....167287.pdf

Not specific to the SW, but I'll update with the Kingman NRCS cover crop suggestions.

August 25, 2015
7:40 am
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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ATTRA has a great free to download publication on cover crops:

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=486

August 30, 2015
5:49 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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Dr. Mercola interviews USDA-NRCS scientist Ray Archuleta on cover crops:

http://articles.mercola.com/si.....lture.aspx?

The article contains the link to Managing Cover Crops Profitably :

http://www.sare.org/Learning-C.....rd-Edition

I just got the FREE download, 248 pages.  Dr. Mercola rocks!

February 20, 2016
11:36 pm
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Christine
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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Cover Crop Secrets

A very interesting interview by Graeme Sait with Jeff Rasawehr, the founder of Center Seeds, a Michigan-based enterprise specialising in the supply of cover crop seed.

http://blog.nutri-tech.com.au/.....secrets-1/

Couldn't find part two.

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