Cover Crops Abound, and more on Saving Seeds

It is the the time of year when many farmers desperately wonder if they’ve, yet again, missed that window of opportunity to spread the joy of cover crop seed into the fields. 

In the last two years, we’ve utilized the benefit of spring, summer, and fall cover crop for a variety of reasons. Weed suppression is a favorite, as well as diversifying the biology of the soil.

Most importantly, we want to avoid leaving any soil exposed to the elements. Soil is a living thing as we all know, and it thrives when roots are working their way down and through it, scavenging for those beneficial minerals, and when plants are able to form a canopy, shading the soil from the sun.

In late summer into fall we purchase of cover crop.While many farmers are experimenting with mixing a whole assortment of seeds, we settle on two basic choices, rye mixed with vetch and clover, and peas and oats.

Rye, vetch, and clover are best sown in late summer prior to a long and steady (gentle) rain. These three crop plants will put on healthy growth quickly in early fall and then enter dormancy through the winter. Their make up allows them to survive cold, snowy winters. In late winter and spring, these crops will grow again, and together, will produce a fair amount of bio-mass. This can be tilled under or used as mulch when crimped. This blend works well for fields to be planted into in the summer.

The peas and oats is a favorite and go-to of many farmers. These cool loving plants grow well in the fall, and then winter kill, creating a dense layer of decomposing organic mulch on top of your beds. This is the ideal situation for the beds that will be transplanted earliest in spring. We recommend this for the backyard gardeners as a way of holding the soil, maintaining the biology of your soil, and for its ability to suppress weeds into the summer. 

Whatever method you choose, be sure to prepare your garden beds in the fall for a quick start in the spring. There are many techniques to choose from. Let us know your go-to method!

On a mid-morning this past Tuesday, we enjoyed a long overdue visit from farm friend and mentor, Patricia Bailey. Tricia is an adamant seed saver, and when she let us know of a wonderful seed saving project she’s collaborating on, we said we want in! 

Sojourning through the fields, we relished in the miracle that is the food web. For this project (more details to come down the road), the ask is to acquire a pound of any certain type of organic seed, especially those plants that are staples in the culinary world. 

We saw that the holy basil was beginning to dry its seed set. And as we sat on our haunches, we were struck by the reality of what a pound of holy basil seed would look like. We recognized we would need a lot more of the holy basil and saw that the tomato field was brimming with this wondrous herb all at its base. So we put off on the holy basil and went to a sure winner for the day.

One thing we knew we had lots of was Coriander (the seed of Cilantro). We have been saving this open-pollinated seed since the farm school’s inception, and dedicated volunteers had been collecting coriander throughout the summer. 

It was time to set the scale, and voila! Two pounds of coriander seed. Some kind of farm record for sure!

As we said our goodbyes, we planned for another meet-up. We knew that the holy basil awaited us, but what else … what else would we find out in the garden?