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

Winter rye cover crop

Frosty rye

The prize for most cold hardy annual in most gardens goes to rye.  Not only will the plants grow during warm spells throughout the winter, they'll germinate right down to one degree above freezing.

With that exciting data revving me up, I might have gone a little overboard on my rye cover crop planting, making it more of a commitment than an experiment.  I sent Mark to Rye seedsthe feed store with "10 pounds of rye seeds" on the list, and he came back with a 50 pound bag --- I guess there weren't enough farmers buying smaller quantities to make it worth their while to break apart a bag.  So I planted and planted and planted, filling up about half the vegetable garden, gaps in the forest garden, and even a bit of bare ground in a chicken pasture.  Yes, I used all 50 pounds.

The rye seedlings look beautiful on frosty mornings, but I'll be in quite a bind if the plants aren't easily killable.  I planned out my garden rotation early to make sure I'd have non-rye spaces for all of the earlier spring plantings, but I'll need those rye beds by June 15 at the latest.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Our chicken waterer is easy to convert to a heated waterer for frosty mornings.

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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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I tested winter rye in my Maine garden last winter. When I was getting ready to plant, I let my chickens turn the plots over, tilling in the cover crop and the soil looked great. Just don't wait until the crop goes to seed.

PS I just received my chicken nipples and will be making my heated waterer today!

Comment by Pam Cooper Mon Nov 19 08:40:18 2012
Posting this here because it's somewhat related: The 11/20/12 episode of "Ag PhD" seen on RFD-TV or online here illustrates nicely what you've been saying all along about the advantages of no till and the value of organic matter in the soil. (The segment starts at ~ 9:00 minutes if you want to skip ahead.)
Comment by doc Wed Nov 21 10:43:29 2012

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