Friday, April 3, 2015

Oat and Turnip Cover Crop

Looking South at my Oat/Turnip Cover Crop
There's nothing earth-shattering to say about my oat and turnip cover crop experiment except that the oats are finally getting tall enough that the field has a green look to it, and the turnips are starting to look more like turnips.  I was wondering if the cold temperatures we had locally right after I drilled this mix would affect the germination of the oats or turnips, but so far it looks like a good portion of what I planted eventually came up.  This year, I probably could have waited until about mid-March to plant and I wouldn't have had such a delay in germination, but if it hadn't been as cold right after planting I'd have a lot more growth at this point compared to a later planting.  It always seems like it's hit or miss whenever I'm trying to decide when to plant something. 
Turnips are starting to look like turnips (I put my boot there on purpose to show the scale)
The turnips are really surprising in how quick they seem to grow, two weeks ago they were just coming out of the ground and now they are easily recognizable as turnips.  In another two or three weeks, they might be big enough to eat (if that's what you are inclined to want to do with your turnips).  I'm going to be planting grain sorghum in this field in about a month, so I'm hoping we get a little rain soon, and both the oats and turnips really start growing so that I get a little bit more benefit from this cover crop before I have to kill it. 
About four leaves and four inches of growth

Turnips from my "quick-and-dirty seedballs"
Back in February, I made some almost, but not quite right seed balls with some oat and turnip seed I had cleaned out of the drill, and I threw them in my garden/test plot to see if it might be worth it to make some proper seed balls sometime in the future.  From that quick little test, it looks like almost every turnip seed came up and none of the oats did.  I've been thinking that it might be worth the effort to try making some proper seed balls to get some clovers growing in scattered locations around my pastures.


  1. With all the talks of water shortages, it always pains me to see people watering their lawns for vanity's sake. Your talk of seed balls has got me to thinking that if somewhere were the vindictive sort, they would make weed seed balls and sew them at night in lawns that regularly get watered for vanity. I can't imagine what one of them might do if they woke up one morning to a lawn full of turnips!

    Any ideas why the oats in the seed balls never came up? I would have though you would have got something.

    1. Although I don't really live in town, the town I "live" in had water rationing back during the last two droughts and they were fining people for watering on the wrong days. Then they had another city department going around and fining people because their yards were dying (neglected landscape or something) because they weren't being watered enough to keep them alive.

      I wasn't surprised when almost none of the local news stations didn't notice the Catch-22 Insanity of the whole watering too much or watering too little city fines situation.

      My best guess is that the oats weren't planted deep enough with my version of a seed ball. Right after I threw everything out in the garden, it rained, snowed, and got pretty cold. If the oats were just covered with a thin layer of compost and soil, they might have germinated pretty quick and then died from the cold. The oats that I drilled in the field were planted deep enough that the ground didn't get below freezing even though the air temperatures were in the teens, and by the time they had germinated and emerged it was much warmer.

      I've been thinking that seed balls might be suited to planting small seeds that are usually transplanted like cabbage, tomatoes, and peppers. You'd have to make a more precise version of a seed ball, and then place them in a row instead of just throwing them here and there.

      Some sort of lettuce or spinach seed ball might also be worth the effort. Or maybe some wildflower seed balls, if you're inclined to plant flowers.