Can I cover crop with edible grains?


Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
I would like to put down a test cover crop of cereal rye and oats. Cover crop seeds are a little expensive. Could I get some rye and oat berries at the grocery store and plant those? Will they germinate? I tried this trick with grocery store garlic and it didn't work. I don't know if grain destined for eating are handled in such a way as to prevent germination.

Thank you.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
6,544
Reaction score
3,279
Location
Tarpley Tx
Hardiness Zone
8b
Country
us
Here in Texas we plant Albin Rye and Oats late summer and it is up by November. Then it will die the following spring/summer. We use it for a green manure and for wild life food plots. The seeds here, purchased from a cattle feed store are quite cheap. I don't think the stuff in the grocery will work.
 
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
871
Reaction score
851
Location
Atlantic Beach, Fl
Hardiness Zone
9a
Country
us
Some seeds need some cold stratification, especially a lot of cover crops, since many of them grow best in cool conditions.

I did something very similar to what you're planning to do. I bought some flax seeds in bulk last year at a local health food store and planted some them in my garden all over the place, but also in one area where I watched for them to germinate; weeks went by and nothing happened, so I ended up forgetting about it.

Then late last year I started seeing plants pop up that I didn't recognize, took some pics and got them identified here on this forum, which eventually jogged my memory of casting all those flax seed in my garden. I now have tons of flax plants all over the place. They needed to go thru the frigid cold period before germination.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
My friend found some wheat berries at the grocery store. I don't know whether they are spring or winter wheat or what. Do these require stratification? If so, how would I go about it? Sticking them in the freezer for a while?

I don't think you can get oats with the hulls still on them. Which I assume is required for germination of oat seed.

Bob's Red MIll has a pound of whole rye berries for about $30. Which is more than the seed companies would charge.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
6,544
Reaction score
3,279
Location
Tarpley Tx
Hardiness Zone
8b
Country
us
My friend found some wheat berries at the grocery store. I don't know whether they are spring or winter wheat or what. Do these require stratification? If so, how would I go about it? Sticking them in the freezer for a while?

I don't think you can get oats with the hulls still on them. Which I assume is required for germination of oat seed.

Bob's Red MIll has a pound of whole rye berries for about $30. Which is more than the seed companies would charge.
I think we need to start over again. There are 3 rye's that are used as cover crops but only 2 are actual rye's. The 2 ryes are annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). The third is not an actual rye and is commonly called winter rye (Secale cereale) or cereal rye which is an annual. All three can be used as groundcovers but cereal rye is a grain, not a grass and is a better green manure crop than either of the two rye's. Please read the following link to cereal rye. You may not want to plant it although feed stores either has or can easily get seed and it's not expensive.
https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_sece.pdf
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
Thank you for the link. I read it. I knew about the difference between cereal rye and annual ryegrass.

I was thinking of doing a small trial of cereal rye in a beaten to hell soil hill that isn't in the garden proper. But mostly I was going to plant it in fallow garden spaces in the fall (probably late September) when frost and rain kill stuff like the corn and tomatoes.

The oats I was thinking of using in the spring. Possibly this month. I would let it grow for a month or so in spaces that will get veggies planted in April or May. It would mostly be tilled under but I also thought that if it gets big enough I could cut it for straw for mulching.

I'm thinking of doing a trial of buckwheat as a cover crop. For areas that will get fall harvestable crops in July. Of course I will have to resist the temptation to plant every square inch of my garden this spring.

Basically, I was hoping to do it on the cheap by getting seed in bulk at grocery stores or something. On the assumption that the cover crop seed has a considerable markup from seed merchants. Though I suspect the germination rate from seed from a seed merchant will be higher than that from the bulk section at the grocer.

For example, Territorial Seed charges $5.45 for a pound of cereal rye seed. I've got to be able to find it for like a buck a pound at some health food store.

Of course, whether it will germinate or not...

I am planning on trying to sow the wheat berries I got at the grocery store and see what happens. I'll try a little now and stick the rest of the stuff in the freezer to see if that will help it germinate. It's quite possible this wheat seed will simply refuse to germinate in the spring and summer.

My lack of confidence is probably obvious because I've never done a cover crop before. My hope is that in the long term I can basically improve the soil with the addition of organic matter. My nasty, heavy clay will probably never be loam but perhaps I can make it better.
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2014
Messages
1,963
Reaction score
758
Location
Brantford,ON
Hardiness Zone
Zone 5
Country
ca
I use clover annual. But in general my climate Zone 5 is too short for a good cover crop.
Clover
Clover comes in a plethora of different shapes and sizes. White Dutch clover works well as a living mulch, since it tolerates both shade and traffic. Yellow blossom sweet clover is an excellent nutrient scavenger and helps build good soil structure. Crimson clover attracts beneficials and looks great, too. Whatever the color, clover fixes nitrogen and helps to build rich soils. For best results, make sure you inoculate your clover seed with Rhizobium bacteria.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
I thought of doing clover but then I have to inoculate it with nitrogen fixing bacteria. Since I was planning to just broadcast the seed I figured it would be hard to inoculate. Or at least expensive.

I did toss some of the wheat berries from the grocery store into a couple of the raised beds. I don't know whether it will germinate or not. If it does germinate I hope it does so quickly because if it decides to germinate in the middle of summer I will have created a huge weed mess.
 
Joined
Dec 11, 2014
Messages
1,963
Reaction score
758
Location
Brantford,ON
Hardiness Zone
Zone 5
Country
ca
I have only used annual clover and never inoculated it. When the weather co-operated the crop was marvelous about 1 year out of 3. I planted as early as possible in the Fall and ploughed it under in the late Fall or early Spring. The Winter killed the vegetation usually. Any beneficial effects were hard to tell.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
I haven't seen any sign of germination from the wheat berries/seed I raked into the soil. This stuff may just never geminate (it was meant to be eaten, not sown) or it could be taking its sweet time.

I am going to try raking in the rest of my grocery store wheat into a test patch and see what happens.

I have some oat and buckwheat seed coming soon. I think I can probably sow the oats now or very soon. The buckwheat I don't know about. It's my plan to have every square inch of the garden planted by mid to late May. So the window for a cover crop is short.

Though I should really set aside some space for fall plantings of stuff like kohlrabi, beets, turnips, kale, etc.
 
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
871
Reaction score
851
Location
Atlantic Beach, Fl
Hardiness Zone
9a
Country
us
I don't know about Oats and heat, but Buckwheat likes the heat (and lots of sun), so no worries about Buckwheat; it's one of the few Warm-Temp covercrops.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
My concern with the buckwheat is if it will germinate and grow now, as opposed to June. I basically need a cover crop that will grow in late March or early April and I can till under in June. Though I might be able to squeeze a month of buckwheat in during late summer.

My plan is to do cereal rye in early fall for overwintering. I hear it's good at fracturing clay soils.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
My (apparently fruitless) attempt to use grocery store food as seeds got me to thinking. Could I buy some dried beans at the store and try to germinate those? Would it work? Has anyone else done this? I was thinking of trying this with black beans and, possibly, garbanzo beans.
 
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
871
Reaction score
851
Location
Atlantic Beach, Fl
Hardiness Zone
9a
Country
us
My concern with the buckwheat is if it will germinate and grow now, as opposed to June. I basically need a cover crop that will grow in late March or early April and I can till under in June. Though I might be able to squeeze a month of buckwheat in during late summer.

My plan is to do cereal rye in early fall for overwintering. I hear it's good at fracturing clay soils.
You probably would be better served by waiting to plant the buckwheat. I planted mine back in mid-February and they germinated, but now they're looking kind of sad with the latest bout of coldness we've been experiencing here, which I believe is the effects of the three winter storms up in the NE. And we're suppose to have another cold front by this Wednesday:mad::mad::mad:

Buckwheat really does hate the cold, even without freezing temps, they're struggling with our lows in the mid to upper 30's.

I've had some super cold winters here in Jax, but never this cold (relatively speaking) this late in the year; I'm :sick: of it.:mad:
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
When do you think I should put in the buckwheat? April?

I intend to put in the oats as soon as I get them. My reasoning is that I was able to sprout some cat grass oat seed last October. So I am hoping that means that oats will germinate even in cool, damp conditions.

It's not outside the realm of possibility that we could get more frost. I think the average date of last frost is the 20th of March but I saw some other table that suggested early April.

I hope the oats grow fast. I'll need that space by June or July at the latest. I'm told the buckwheat goes pretty quick.

I hope the weather starts cooperating with you more. I bet the craziness in the Northeast is playing hell with the gardeners in that neck of the woods.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
My seeds finally arrived. And with them a pound each of oats and buckwheat seed.

I'm tempted to sow the buckwheat seed in early April but I suspect that's too soon. I might make a test row or two and hold most of the seed until May.

The oats I would like to sow within a week. There is going to be a lot of rain between now and June and I'd like something to soak it up. Rather than having the soil turn to mud.

Is late March a viable time to sow oats seed? And when should I sow the buckwheat?

And how long should I let the cover crops grow? I would like to be able to till all of it under and have it rot within a month or so. But I can also cut the stalks and turn them into straw for mulch if need be.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
The oats aren't germinating. I think the birds are getting some of them. But for the most part they just aren't sprouting. I've picked out several out seeds where the hull popped open but nothing happened. I think the soil is just too cold for germination.

Which annoys me because I now have these beds that are sitting fallow. It's way too cold for the buckwheat. Something I might try just for the hell of it is to plant some mustard greens and see if they germinate.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
167
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
us
Still no germination from any of the grain seed I put in. I got a soil thermometer and checked the soil temps. Soil temps were consistently between 53 and 55 degrees. That ought to be warm enough for germination. A combination of rain and my own watering should have kept things moist.
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top