Farm Focus: Cover Crops

This winter we are continuing our work with Natural Resource
Conservation Service (NRCS) which has provided funding
for us to purchase seed to plant cover crops in one of our
orchards.
Frog Hollow has long been a proponent of keeping the soil
in our orchard covered. Throughout the summer, we let
wild grasses grow in our inter-rows. This helps the soil retain
moisture and creates habitat for beneficial insects. When the
grass gets tall, our ground team cruises through with weed
whackers. The cut grasses become a thick blanket of green
mulch which will decompose into the soil, generating more
organic matter and helping our soil regenerate and remain
vital.
Purchasing seeds which are ideally suited for a cover crop
will confer all the benefits the wild grasses do, but with far
more efficacy. The seed mix we chose is a mix of legumes,
barley, oats, and wheat. The legumes will fix nitrogen into the
soil. The grains have very deep tap roots which are beneficial
in multiple ways. Roots help create better soil structure
allowing pockets for aeration which increase the soil’s water
holding capacity. So, the deeper the roots, the better the soil
is able to filter and retain water below the surface level of the
soil profile.
Taproots also help feed the microbes that live in the soil.
When the plant is alive, the roots are making sugars which
the soil microbes eat. Those microbes are a key component
to soil fertility. In addition to feeding microbes, those deep
roots bring nutrients up from lower levels of the soil profile
and into the foliar part of the plant. Once we mow those
grasses, those minerals will decompose and fertilize the top
levels of the soil. This is nature’s beautiful circle of nurturing
itself with a little help from us.
This winter, we’ve planted our cover crop in an additional
20 acres of our orchard. We hope to continue converting
more acreage from wild grasses to optimized cover crops in
season’s to come. We’ll keep you posted!

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