Hi, I bought this year a property with good soil but poor uncared for...

Asked September 10, 2017, 7:46 PM EDT

Hi, I bought this year a property with good soil but poor uncared for pasture. I'm looking to plant next year orchard grass in about 2 acres and row crops in about 2 acres. I'm wondering if the best way to prep the soil is to disc first, wait a little while and then till and seed with a cover crop for the winter then plant in the spring. I have not yet done a soil sample, but I plan to do it asap so I know what my covercrop option will be. Does that sound like the best way to prep for the spring? How long should I wait between disc and till if it is?

Lane County Oregon small farm issues cover crops soil amendments

5 Responses

Winter cover cropping is a good way to increase organic matter, add nutrients to the soil and help with weed management as you prepare to replant to grass and other crops. You will want to move forward with plans to work up the soil and prepare a seedbed for planting. If you plan to plant a legume, such as crimson clover, you will want to try to get the area seeded by the end of the month. Plan to disc as soon as you can. If you have tall vegetation, you may want to mow first. Your goal is a seedbed fine enough for the cover crop species that you choose and getting to that point in the next couple of weeks.

This would also be a good time to incorporate lime to the soil if you need to increase the soil pH (your soil test will help you make that determination).

The steps to incorporate your cover crop into the soil in the early spring and plant back to orchardgrass will be something you'll want to consider. If your soil is well drained, it may not be a problem to get out there and get the vegetation worked under during some dry spells. Another consideration is whether or not you have water rights for irrigation. If you don't, then you may want to wait to plant your orchardgrass next fall. Without irrigation, there is a risk that a spring planted pasture will struggle in heat and drought, which may lead to more weeds than healthy grass plants. If you have water rights, then a spring planting should work well.

Here are two resources you may find useful. Pasture & Hayland Renovation Guide for Western Washington and Oregon and our collection of cover cropping resources at: http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/improving-soil-quality-crops

Thank you! So you think I can plant crimson clover immediately after discing? Can I spread the lime over the ground before discing to incorporate it?

Depending on how smooth you can get the soil with the disc. If you have large clumps of roots and vegetative material you'll probably need to go finer with a tiller, if that's what you have. If you take a look at the renovation guide, you'll see some scenarios for seed bed preparation.

Yes, you can spread the lime on the surface then disc it in. Getting it mixed into the soil within the root zone is more efficient then top-dressing it only, that's why I suggested now. But, if you don't feel you have time to get that all figured out, you can always incorporate the lime when you work the soil before planting it back to pasture.

If I plan on waiting until next fall to plant the orchard grass, is crimson clover my best choice for an unirrigated field for all next year or do u have a better suggestion? Thanks

Annual ryegrass with a clover is a good option. The grass will provide a lot of biomass, help choke winter annual weeds and provide cover into the summer. You can even mow in the spring to keep the crop from going to seed. The clover will provide a source of nitrogen.