Once the sorghum-sudangrass started heading out in late summer, I ran a lawn mower without the mower engaged over all of it so that I could flatten everything to the ground instead of chopping it all up with the mower. The idea behind that was to terminate the growth and also create a thick mat of residue. After I'd flattened the entire area, I spread some biochar over the area (about a 30 gal. trashcan of biochar spread over a 2000 sq.ft. area?). Most of the sorghum-sudangrass eventually regrew after that to a height of about 36" before it was winter killed in early fall.
This spring, I was surprised at how good the soil looked in that area, I still had some residue on the surface, I had a thin wheat stand growing (not sure if that came from my cover crop cocktail mix or not), and it was easy to find earthworms almost every time I dug a hole in the cover cropped area (I've never really noticed that many worms in my gardens before). It looked so good that I almsot didn't want to run the tiller over it. I've built about four gardens, so far this one is the best one I've built, and I'm starting to think that growing warm season grasses like sorghum-sudangrass as a cover crop works quicker and better than growing cover crops of cool season grasses like wheat to build soils.
I'm hoping that the part of my cropland that I planted sorghum-sudangrass and grazed this winter improves in a similar way.
This year I decided to combine some cover cropping and growing some actual food by planting what I'd call a modified Buffalo Bird Woman type of garden (you can find the actual book online at: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/buffalo/garden/garden.html ). Some people might call it a three sisters type of garden with corn, beans, and squash. Typically corn is planted in hills about three foot apart in a four row block, with hills of beans and squash in between the larger blocks of corn.
|2015 Combination Cover Crop / Garden Experiment Plan|
|A bucket with both beans and corn, a string line, and a planting stick and you're good to go|
|Everything coming up, from L to R, turnips, corn/beans, beans/watermelon, corn/beans, tomatoes, potatoes|
And, so I can better remember what I planted, the corn is Minnesota 13, (an 87 day field corn) and the beans are just ordinary pinto beans from the grocery store.