The Lowdown on Cover Crop Mixes

Hi! Well, we’re outside
this week in the Q&A! At last! Still got cloud cover, but hopefully we’re going to
get through before it rains. And, in the background,
there’s quite a noisy chipper on a property nearby,
sounds like a big one… So, you might hear some big
grinding sort of noises. Now, our first question
involves cover crop and it comes from Guy. People are marketing and
selling “cover crop cocktails”, where a mix of species
are presented together. Are there reasons to not use such a mix? Are there benefits to doing so easily missed at first glance? What would you consider as you determine if a mix is best for your site? Is there such a thing as a bad mix? Well, this is less than two weeks old, and it was all grass, and I documented this on Facebook. We came through and slashed all the grass in between these trees
that was struggling, or some of these trees
that was struggling, and then we rotary hoed it, very shallow, and then we seeded it and
put a fine mulch over it to get this cover crop up. Then we inter-planted more trees to make it a really dense planet. Basically, it’s about rampancy. This time of year, I’ve only
got cowpea that grows well. This is it, it’s a Vigna, and it’s cheap enough for me to buy. Still quite expensive,
but does such a great job. Now, we’re coming to the end
of summer, here in Australia, so it’s only going to grow
until about May, or early June, when the cold weather will kill it and I’ll have to move into a winter mix. Now, I say a mix because, in winter, I can get three seeds
that work for me, easily, at the right price and the right rampancy. I’ll keep emphasizing this. We’re looking at agricultural price so we can throw a lot of seed. I over-seed to get the cover and control while I get the perennial
system up in this case. I use the same sort of attitude when it comes to crops, as well. In winter, I can buy
three, and that is vetch, field pea, which is usually
Mayfield pea or Dunn pea, and Lupin. Now, if I can get them
all that the right price, I’ll put them all in,
because I think a mix, when they’re all rampant
and they’re all legumes, is very beneficial… And it’s random but it’s in swings. If one doesn’t go so well, the
other one takes up the gap… But they got to be at the right price. Sometimes, one’s too expensive, or two are too expensive
and I only use one. So, that’s my approach. Here, I really only can afford
cowpeas at the right price. It does the job, I’m not worried that I haven’t got a mix,
be nice to have a mix. If I really wanted to make… More of an intense job of it, in a crop, I might put a carbon crop
cover in here, as well; I might plant sorghum and cowpea. I can show you that in a minute, when we have a chinampa question… Because I’m going to go down to chinampas that were put in not that long ago, and we’ve got sorghum and
cowpea growing together. Normally, unless I really wanted a very, very high production garden and I want carbon and nitron together, I’m just going to go legumes
for control of the ground, to get a lot of nitron into the soil, and that’s how I get a
lot of leaf material up with my support species, which
are like my tree cover crop. I’ve got a really diverse
mix here of support species, mostly legumes, that I can cut and return to the soil,
and they’ll re-grow and I can manage while
I get my fruit trees up. If I’m in a cropping scenario, I’m not going towards
such a perennial system, I’m going to annual, mostly… Maybe some perennials, but mostly annual. I might want carbon and nitron
together, but that’s all. If they’re doing mixes, just
find out what the mix is. If it’s all nitrogen, and
they’re all rampant enough. This is the problem. People might advise you
here to use clovers; they’re just not big enough,
they’re just not fast enough to keep up with our subtropical weeds. Make sure you got the
rampancy that works for you. Design that rampancy
to work in your favor, that’s the big thing. Here, I’ve got sorghum and
cowpea, and it’s much older… It’s been here all summer, and it’s quite a lot of mass, here. I’ve got a seed sorghum here, and that’s high carbon
plus I get a seed off it for the chickens, if I want. My cowpeas really come up in size. I’ve come down here… This is a chinampa that
was put in last August, and now we’re in April, so
it’s been here a little while. We’ve been through a
devastating drought… And, if you can see,
it’s grown pretty well even in a drought.

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