oat cover crop

MichaelOctober 20, 2011

FYI: I've been using (feed) oats for a Fall/Winter cover crop and thought someone here would be interested. In this area of north central KS it is best planted in the very middle of Sept., 2 weeks earlier you get mature seed heads by the first killing frost, two weeks later than mid Sept. and they don't cover the ground thoroughly.

Mine are planted this way 1) till to about 2" 2) plant with the Gardenway planter at 1 1/2" depth setting in rows about 9" apart. Usually, I use the large bean plate but tried the Lima bean plate for fun this year in a small portion of the garden. The Lima bean plate dropped clumps of seed about 8" apart in the row but the rows are still filling in fairly well So far I think the large bean plate is best for filling the rows with enough seed and getting it dispersed evenly in the row.

Why go to all the trouble? In the Spring, 1) there is a lot of organic matter to incorporate into the soil 2) the oats take up remaining N in the soil to keep it from leaching out and holding in the overwintered residue for use in the following Spring. 3) the soil's tilth is greatly improved.

Oats won't break up a fairly shallow hard pan like turnips will, plant turnips in the Fall if you need that. Who knows maybe it work to plant turnips and oats together in the Gardenway planter and double the usefulness.

Individual results may vary :)

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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

One year I planted oats after chopping up the sweetcorn residue. It made a good cover that winter killed late. The remains in spring can be mowed up or left standing. The strawy part is good if nitrogen is available enough.

This year I have tillage radishes that winter kill. I think they will be a good winter cover crop.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 2:49PM
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I agree they both make superb late covers. For me, they are both expensive seed, so I usually settle for wheat.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 5:59PM
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Radishes. Don't think that I'll try them again.

In the Fall/Winter of 2009 I broadcast radish seeds on a small patch thinking that they would make some good tillage - very few came up. I figured that they were dead seed or had rotted.

Come Spring 2010, a chunk came up and they got tilled under. On 5/01/10 the bed got tilled again and squash was set out ...

Those rascals caused me all kinds of trouble as seen below on 5/21/2010 ...

I could not kill them. All year long they kept popping up or rooting again.

I like wheat and Austrian Winter Peas.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 6:52PM
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Thanks for that reminder, Cozy, I need to sow my austrians.

Hey, do you know anything about Mr.Shot?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 7:10PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

The radishes I sowed are daikons and I would say that all came up quickly for me....sometimes some watering after sowing could be necessary. I think that if you manage them properly, they will work well.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 9:13PM
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Wayne: your Daikon mention reminded me of a 40 acre fallowed field near here. Interesting mix, the farmer planted a mix of turnip (not unusual around here), Daikon, oat (nurse crop) and vetch (don't know which one yet), it is a beautiful sight seeing that field covered solid, nearly 2' deep in growth.

The cattle will be turned out into it soon.

For those unaware, the purpose here in the grain belt, for growing turnip is primarily to break up hard soil layers, the root expands as it grows, as it dies and turns to mush all that is left (besides the smell) is the hole it once occupied. Cattle are turned out to graze the tops also before frost has completely frozen the tops. Not too sure but I think the cattle will also eat the exposed roots from the ground.

Cozy: Your pictures remind me of why I try not to plant oats too early, they go to seed and create a oat weed problem the following year. Now, if those plants start developing seed heads they get hit with the string trimmer.

Pnbrown: there are still a few advantages to living out here in the grain belt, getting the cover crop seed is still cheap and easy, for one, extremely little traffic and few people are others. Last time I looked at the price of oat seed in the Territorial catalog I about choked. A bu. of "feed" oats cost about $5 here currently, the same amount in Territorial is about $100. Maybe I should retire and sell oats.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 12:22PM
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Yeah, right? The last time I grew oats was when I brought a sack back from a trip to PEI, taken right out of the elevator. There is a grass weed that grows around here that sets seedheads that look just like oats. Wild oats, maybe? Though I'm pretty sure it's perennial.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 5:37PM
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FWIW, Here's an easy way to seed a cover crop, I've used it for Buckwheat and oats. Till your soil, scatter the seed by hand or using a seeder. With a rear tine tiller, set the depth stake to "transport" and run over the plot with tines forward. The tines dig in just enough to cover and spread the seed around. Works great and is very fast.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 7:42AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I ran over mine with a front end tiller by moving it along quickly.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 11:44AM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

I drag a piece of chain link fence over mine before, to smooth and remove extra debris, and after seeding with my old Allis Chalmer tractor.

If you have a decent size lawn tractor that should work also. I get great results!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 1:21PM
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"Austrian winter peas are top N
producers, yielding from 90 to 150 lb. N/A, and at
times up to 300 lb. N/A." = nitrogen/acre

Good stuff indeed eh Pat? Combined with winter wheat, I think that it is as good as it gets.

I never heard back from my last email to Mr Shot ... I think that it ended as he foresaw :(

exmar, that is what I do here ... just use a 6' pto tiller.

wayne_5, Hope it works out.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 11:04AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

cozy, The radishes are beautiful. They are deep divers which fiberize the soil. A few with extra room are humongus...up to 3/12 inches in diameter and I don't know how long...maybe 18 inches of radish plus a feeder root on down.

Come spring, I don't have to kill them off.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 12:47PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Below is a video clip about the radishes. How much they would winter kill down deep south is a guess. When I planted some in the spring in an unused area, they went to seed. I later mowed them up and tilled a bit. I then have a second fall crop from the volunteer seeding.

Here is a link that might be useful: tillage radishes

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 11:40AM
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What is Tillage radish? Is it any kind of radish and is it expensive if not?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 1:41AM
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After doing more research, it seems it's Daikon Radish. Is there more than one kind of Daikon?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 2:40AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Forage radishes [Daikon raphanus sativus var. niger] are $13.00 for 2 lbs. from Fedco. That should cover about 6,000 sq. ft.. Do not sow thickly.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 12:13PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

I put down oats as as cover crop this fall, first time trying. I'm wondering, when they will be winter killed? We had a little snow a couple of days ago (YE-OW! first time I've ever seen snow in October here in 13 years!) that didn't stick, followed by two nights of frost but the oats look the same as before.

I don't need soil break up here, but I'm hoping to improve soil organic mater content and keep N from slipping away during the winter months. So 1/2 the garden is in oats, the other half is getting covered in sheet compost. I'm eager to see what I've got out there in the spring.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 12:42PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Your oats probably will be killed..though very late in the winter. I wondered about mine when I had winter oats.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 12:46PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"Is there more than one kind of Daikon?"

You bet! Check out the link below to daikon images. There are many varieties -- some preferred in Japan, others in China or Korea.

Thanks Wayne, for the interesting link re tillage radishes. I may try that.


Here is a link that might be useful: Daikon Images

    Bookmark   November 1, 2011 at 5:06PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

I should add that there are Summer daikons and Fall daikons. I'm not sure how closely adapted they really are to season.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 8:40AM
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Sunnibel: this year's oats have survived (typically) overnight temps. down to about 24 deg. with only tip damage, unless things start to warm back up into the 60s in the day I don't expect to get much more growth. Teens and colder will pretty much put a bad hurting on them from here on out except down low to the ground.

The chain link idea sounds pretty good, just need good seed/soil contact and about a week of moist soil to get the seed to sprout.

I use the planter because it works very well and the rows are visually appealing. Still get a fair number of people every year who ask what I'm growing, they never ask why.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 2:25PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

My Crimson clover is up! When you are standing in the garden it looks kinda thin, but looking from the side it is a beautiful green haze.

The same as last year, I worried that I didn't have enough. Then it kicked in and really started growing it became a lush bed of green. Then later everyone is asking what is that beautiful red flower that you have growing!

It completely crowded out the winter weeds and suppressed the summer weeds on the areas that I just mowed and left on top for my fall veggies.

The area that I tilled in grew great, for the deer.... The things that the deer didn't mess with were much better than I have had in years! I had more tomatoes on fewer plants than I have ever had before.

I am arming myself for deer now, scarecrow sprinklers!I have one that I bought late in the season and it worked. So I have ordered more to cover the whole garden.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 3:03PM
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Wertach: you bring up an excellent point to consider for those of us who encounter deer damage over the winter, fall and spring. If I plant certain covers I may end up attracting deer to my fruit trees which are within 10 - 300' of the vegetable ground that gets cover cropped. The deer have only begun to be a problem in the last year, no point in rolling out the welcome mat for them.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 3:21PM
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Hey Wayne: what's with the registered trademark on, "Tillage Radishes"? You may have listed the wrong var. in your previous post if the Univ. of MD is correct. BTW, the link below lists some suppliers if you are looking for alternate and possibly cheaper sources.

For a very good review on forage radishes and their use as cover crops, check out this Univ. of MD Extension Fact Sheet.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 4:00PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

michael, That is a very good link.
The registered trademark on tillage radishes is a way to sell a consistant seed product and make a little bit of money. The forage radishes I sowed from Fedco are the same essentially as the "tillage" radishes. I have one that is 3 1/2 inches in diameter and probably 2 feet long plus deeper tap rooting. It is best to not plant them thickly. ...about 5 inches apart.

I sowed some last spring to see how they grew and whether they stunk when rotting. I never noticed any smell, but they quickly went to seed and didn't root much.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 12:06PM
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Wayne: I'm thinking, after further research that, the "tillage radishes" came about from a cooperative effort of the U of MD and a private entity, the result is the private operator was able to have a patented line of seed and named it, "tillage radishes". It seems from some further reading that other than the patented tillage radishes, radish types tend to be named in a loose, generic way like, "forage radishes".

At any rate, it isn't too uncommon for products to come to market via private/university cooperative efforts, if memory serves me correctly, Surround and Bt came about this way.

After I finished my last post yesterday I did a couple of hours of researching and realized I was pretty darned uninformed about the turnip cover crop idea, the research also led me into a tangent on mustards and brassicas which is just as interesting. Much to learn, to say the least but fascinating to consider incorporating into my little slice of heaven.

This link is from KS State and is a pretty long review of information on cover cropping with brassicas and mustards, enjoy.

Here is a link that might be useful: The link

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 12:52PM
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