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Planting spring cover crops

Field pea seeds

Planting oatsMarch is usually the begining of our big planting push, with 31 beds slated to be seeded along with some perennials in the forest garden and chicken fodder crops in the chicken pasture.  However, the addition of spring cover crops to our rotation led to an even earlier planting heyday this year.  Wednesday, I got out my soil thermometer and decided the ground was warm enough to put in 20 beds of oats, two of which were interplanted with field peas.

These oats will become mulch for summer corn, beans, and squash, and I debated whether to manure the beds now or wait until May when the vegetable seeds go into the ground.  I eventually decided to topdress our inch of composted manure over the oat seeds since compost is a time-release fertilizer and I suspect there will be plenty of nutrition left to feed the summer crops when the time comes.  Rotting oat leaves and roots should put the nutrients sucked up by the cover crop back into Oat seedsthe soil throughout the summer, too, so nothing will be lost.  I even added a thin layer of straw on top of the newly planted beds to keep the manure from drying out.

It may seem like a lot of work to grow mulch, but I was extremely happy with my fall cover crop trials and suspect that my spring planting will repay me as well.  And then there's the other incentive of planting cover crops --- working my way through that 50 pound bag of oat seeds I bought in the fall....

Our chicken waterer gets day-old chicks off to a fast start and keeps five year old hens laying like youngsters.

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