Video Clip: Mowing Hairy Vetch and Rye from Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques video clip.


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Lou Johns and Robin Ostfeld, Blue Heron Farm. Lodi, NY.

Audio Text

These beds have rye and hairy vetch blended together, broadcast together over the entire bed, these will get mowed generally twice if not sometimes three times with a flail mower and then turned under with a rotovator. The mowing is for two purposes, one is it takes the vegetation and breaks it down into smaller pieces so it incorporates better, the other purpose is to arrest the vigorous growth of the rye and hairy vetch. One of the things we’ve found with mowing the rye and vetch is, the timing and height can be critical in allowing it to re-grow and giving you sort of a whole other flush of vegetative growth sometimes really encouraging the vetch. On the first mowing cutting it to about 6-8 inches tall, taking it down from say a foot to two feet and that seems to give you a really good re-growth and encourages that vetch. Right before incorporation I try to mow as tight as I can get it cut, again to chop the material as fine as possible and so the stubble isn’t as much of a problem for breaking down.

So this is what it’s all about, growing cover crops, when you get soils that look like this that are just impregnated with roots from the cover crops, like spider webs through this thing making habitat for earthworms and then you have soil nodules from vetch there that are just going to feed a crop that’s coming later.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).

Published June 15, 2011

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