Three of our fields have improved to the point where we can stop growing cover crops and plant our final pasture grass mix for our future livestock! These fields have more than 3% organic matter (still not a great %, but pretty good for our very sandy soil), and they consistently produce very lush & healthy cover crops.
Our last cover crop was mature and dying in mid-May. I want to plant the final pasture grass mix sometime this August so it can grow well this fall before winter sets in. For summer weed suppression and other benefits, I want to plant something for the summer, but I don’t want to till or apply herbicides to kill it in August before planting the grass mix. What to do? How about a short-season cover crop? Yes!
Many plants make wonderful summer cover crops, but only a few of them (to my knowledge) are short season, meaning they grow, mature, flower & produce seeds within a short timeframe. Annual plants that are mature will die by mowing. No tillage or herbicides needed!
I chose buckwheat, sunflowers and oats. (See my previous post on summer oats.) Buckwheat matures in seven weeks! And the sunflowers I chose (Terraza) were 70-day, meaning they flower at 70 days after planting, well within my August deadline.
Bonus: the sunflowers and buckwheat are beautiful together! The pic below does not do them justice. Both have reached over 5 feet tall in some places. Other benefits include: great weed suppression, soil texture improvement through buckwheat’s abundant, fine roots, and phosphorus scavenging (getting hard-to-get phosphorus from the soil and putting it into plant available form). I’m not sure what sunflowers uniquely do for soil health, but I heard they scavenge zinc.
I’m glad the last cover crop for these fields is so pretty!