The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Rye cover crop in the spring

Rye cover crop

Around the beginning of April, I started stressing about our rye cover crop.  I'd seeded quite a few beds in rye last fall, figuring the plants would have time to bloom and then be mowed down before vegetables needed to be planted there in late May or early June.  But the late-seeded rye didn't get much more than three inches tall over the winter, and despite other people's claims that the species grows on warm days, our plants mostly sat there.

Then, suddenly, the rye got its feet under it and started to grow.  The plants seemed to be measurably taller every day, with the happiest beds nearing two feet tall already.  Even in the troubled soil of the sodden back garden (pictured above), rye seems to be producing demonstrable biomass.

The real question is --- will the rye bloom and die on schedule?  Only time will tell, but I feel better about the experiment now that growth is finally happening.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We are closer to the coast than you and thus saw more growth in our rye than what you are mentioning. My problem was that I needed the space sooner than later so we cut ours in before it actually bloomed. It did a great job of "cover cropping" and we had no noticeable cool season weeds (henbit is bad here). I will have to plan better in its use this fall so I can give it longer to mature.

I already have buckwheat sprouting in areas I need to lighten the soil. I just bought a 50 pound bag to use throughout the summer.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Apr 22 11:50:32 2013
I'm confused about rye and buckwheat. I have used them before and tilled them in, but, with the no-till method, how does just cutting them down allow you to plant something else in their place? Would the cut areas not resemble cut grass (for the rye) with the root mass still present? How do you plant in this? Thanks for enlightening me. :)
Comment by Heather W. Mon Apr 22 14:47:53 2013
Located in MA Zone 6A. I plant my Winter Rye around October/November. I then cut it down when it's about to go to seed which is around Mid to Late May. Next day I till it into the soil if it's not raining. I primarily use Winter Rye to prevent erosion and provide nitrogen back to the soil.
Comment by BSmith Wed Apr 24 11:23:07 2013

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