Video Clip: Permanent Beds and Cover Crop Rotation from Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques


Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques [DVD]. V. Grubinger. 2006. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase from: 31 Dec 2008).

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


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Eileen Droescher, Ol'Turtle Farm. Easthampton, MA.

Audio Text

Our field space is divided into sections of 30 beds. There’s a section of cash crop bordered by two sections of cover crop. The next season those are rotated such that the cash crops are now in sections where there was a cover crop. Each of our sections contains 30 permanent beds. They’re mostly 300 feet long by 45 inches center to center. We also keep these permanent beds exactly where they are, we use a spader and drive only on the pathways, walk only on the pathways so the beds always remain the same whether they’re in cover crop or in cash crop.

After our cash crop, we would seed with rye and vetch or just rye as the season gets colder. Then the middle of next season, around July, that rye and vetch would be put down and put into a cover crop that would winter kill such as oats and peas or Sudex.

This section was in cash crop earlier in the season, it’s now been spaded down and put into rye and vetch. We are on a permanent bed system so the pathways always stay in the same place. The bed is planted with cover crop, we keep the pathways clean so we’re able to find the bed the next year. We use a permanent bed system, mainly to reduce compaction to help maintain good soil structure.

And so it’s the middle of August, we go by beds, so rye and vetch usually gets put down 5 pounds of rye and 2 pounds of vetch per bed. And since we go bed by bed, we just mix the seed according to the number of beds we’re going to put down at that time. This rye and vetch will be allowed to grow until it starts to head out and then it will be mowed, we usually have to mow twice for the rye and then allow the vetch to come back through and flower and then we would mow again for the vetch and then it will be spaded down and put into a winter kill cover crop such as oats and peas.

This is the equipment we use for planting our cover crop. A simple drop seeder that we purchased from Market Farm Implement, it's adjustable according to the size seed that you’re putting down. We incorporate it with a basket weeder. We use a pipe on the back of the tractor that drags along the bed and that helps to create the compaction necessary for faster seed germination.

This is a field of oats and peas, it was seeded in mid August after spading down rye and vetch. The beds are seeded to about 5 pounds of pre-mixed oats and peas per bed. Any of the legumes that we put down, we do inoculate them prior to seeding.

The other part of our fertility system is compost. We have to buy our compost in, it’s rather expensive so we have been using a lot of legumes in our cover crop and are hoping to reduce the amount of compost we have to use.

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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