Experimental use of Alfalfa as a summer cover/rotational crop


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East Texas and Central Texas are very different but my dad tried growing Alfalfa in Central Texas and his did the same thing. He got a good stand for 2 years and then it just stopped. The soil here is alkaline and yours is acidic. I hope that is the reason
 
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Meadowlark

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Actually two years might be just right for an ideal rotational cover crop system in the garden. The big freeze here recently killed all the small grains, most of the legumes and even root plants like turnips...but alfalfa did just fine. It even survived our hot and humid last summer and that is really saying something. Actually could be less work than what I do now which is actually very little work. It means in the alfalfa space you wouldn't have to re-plant a different cover crop plant each season.

I have app 40 ft x 85 ft garden. A simple rotational/cover plan...every year do about 10 ft x 85 ft of cover alfalfa. After two years till the first plot under, then next year till the following year plot and so on. At any given time would have a one year plot and a coming two year plot and fresh soil for veggie growing.

I'm thinking I'll go with the first 10 x 85 plot this spring. Can't wait for my first veggie crop in an alfalfa following plot.
 
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Alfalfa works best as a rotational crop at approximate 5 year intervals and some well cared for last much longer. Great for small vegetable gardens and a great feed for those that prefer a flock of hens for farm fresh eggs. They can be pastured on alfalfa during the summer and it can be cut and cured for winter feed. They'll pick the stems clean and those stems can be recycled back into mother earth.
In the plains states it's recommended to plant alfalfa late summer / early fall to avoid weeds the first year.

Buckwheat is a standard annual cover crop and effective weed suppressor.
 

Meadowlark

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...

Buckwheat is a standard annual cover crop and effective weed suppressor.

Disagree. In my area buckwheat is about worthless as a cover crop. Far better choices exist. The first early frost takes it out and here that means from early Nov. to spring you have barren ground...not good, not good at all.

5 year lifecycle is far too long for garden use as rotational cover. I'm going with two years max to start and rotating plots through the entire garden area.

So far, I've started seed in spring and noticed that the stand needed a little help with weeds that first growing season...but after that, man is it ever thick. Beautiful, thick, deep green.

No chickens (or guineas) allowed, lol. They know a good thing when they see it!

I mowed mine about 8 times last year and plan to do similar this year. Just tremendous soil building materials going into the ground...not chickens gizzards, lol.

Thanks for your interest.
 
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I was thinking the subject was a summer cover crop and a crop that would be a soil builder, hence about 5 years.

I guess I completely missed the point of this post.
 

Meadowlark

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No, you didn't miss the point...just missed the response mark totally, IMO...but I appreciate your comments.

Buckwheat just doesn't last through the hot summers here...and worse, dies immediately at first frost if you plant it late summer here. Hence, it isn't either a summer cover or winter cover here. I've tried it...more than once, but not again. No way it lasts 5 years or even 5 months here.

Anyhow, I have no need or desire for 5 years of cover crop in the same space...one growing season of cover/rotation has worked well for me in 30 plus years of gardening here. I've used cow peas for summer cover/rotation, shredding and re-growing as many a four times a summer...and then used elbon rye/clovers/ small grains in winter....but alfalfa appears to be able to do both summer and winter cover without replanting. It can be mowed frequently in summer...every two weeks here...and the surprising bonus provides cover all winter here, even in 8 deg. record low temps. That's a stunning result for me.

Yep, I'm sold on it. The thing about alfalfa to me is how thick and beautiful it is headed into its second year. I never expected that...was only looking for one summer growing as cover...but it far exceeded my expectations. That's why you do experiments before scaling up...and I'm definitely scaling up with a systematic cover/rotation program with alfalfa this year.
 
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Meadowlark, I'd be highly surprised if the cold snap killed your turnips. A couple weeks ago, here in northeast Ohio, I found and ate some turnips and beets that survived our winter.

And that's not unusual, I did the same for the last couple years.
 

Meadowlark

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Yep, you are correct...it just knocked the tops back but the roots survived.
 
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Winter is over here in East Texas and the experimental alfalfa has really taken off.

Just three weeks ago we were enduring one of the hardest cold snaps in recent memory...temps hit 8 deg. here one night and several nights fell into the teens...and the alfalfa survived it just fine while several other cover crop plants did not. In fact, it appears to have thrived.

Now it has absolutely taken off. It is about 15 inches tall and very thick and very deep green. The lack of thickness early on has been a concern for me using it as a cover crop, but over the winter it has increased "thickness" easily by 100%. That is important for weed control and soil building which is what this experiment is all about.

Alfalfa, by reputation, is one of the very best N2 fixing legumes...in spite of this fact being called an urban legend by one uninformed poster here. This small test plot has not received any artificial N2 and look at the deep green colors. No question in my mind it is building N2 in the soil. It was cut about 8 times last growing season providing huge amounts of green matter for the soil.

I'm now considering, based on these positive results, possibly expanding this into a commercial hay field for the production of alfalfa hay. At $15 per bale from the horse folks around Houston, this has the possibility of being an interesting economic venture.

For certain, at a minimum, I'm going to expand the use of it in my garden's cover crop rotation program.

Oneeye...you were a big proponent of alfalfa here and if you are still on this forum, which seems unlikely, give me a shout out. I'd love to hear yours or others comments.

View attachment 76932
This "uninformed" poster did not say that legumes do not fix nitrogen; he said that when you allow legumes to grow pods, in order to harvest them, THAT's where the nitrogen goes, and is why they are high in protein.
If you are going to be a condescending tosser, then at least get it right.
 

Meadowlark

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Soil tests don't lie, in my experience, but people often do.

Results from recent "MySoil" analysis : The soil immediately under the experimental alfalfa plot is 279% higher in N2 than the soil in the rest of my garden....and remember, I use cover crops, including other legumes, extensively all over my garden as well as chicken manure and cow manure fertilizers.

For those doubters who claim N2 fixing is an "Urban Myth", the soil under my alfalfa plot is 15.5 ppm higher in N2 than the average across my entire garden. That is with the alfalfa in place one growing season.

Interestingly, the soil under the alfalfa plot is significantly higher in boron (double), zinc (136%), copper (56%) and phosphorus (157%)

Soil tests don't lie.

The experiment continues.

p.s. I highly recommend the "MySoil" test process. Very easy and results available online very quickly. Much superior to County agents, etc.
 
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Soil tests don't lie, in my experience, but people often do.

Results from recent "MySoil" analysis : The soil immediately under the experimental alfalfa plot is 279% higher in N2 than the soil in the rest of my garden....and remember, I use cover crops, including other legumes, extensively all over my garden as well as chicken manure and cow manure fertilizers.

For those doubters who claim N2 fixing is an "Urban Myth", the soil under my alfalfa plot is 15.5 ppm higher in N2 than the average across my entire garden. That is with the alfalfa in place one growing season.

Interestingly, the soil under the alfalfa plot is significantly higher in boron (double), zinc (136%), copper (56%) and phosphorus (157%)

Soil tests don't lie.

The experiment continues.

p.s. I highly recommend the "MySoil" test process. Very easy and results available online very quickly. Much superior to County agents, etc.
You don't absorb information well: I said legumes which you allow to grow pods to crop, use that nitrogen.
 

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