When to cut field and what type of cover crop can I hand broadcast

Asked July 16, 2020, 12:35 PM EDT

Hi. I have a fallow part of my property (about 1 acre) that needs to be mowed; there are ~25 fruit trees, 2 bee colonies and some naturalizing plants (mulberry trees primarily). There is MUCH milkweed also; I have hand broadcasted seeds over the past several years. Also some invasives such as Canadian thistle (already gone to head unfortunately, I missed the proper time to cut or dead head it) and Johnson Grass. I would like to have it mowed/bush hogged, but am concerned about when to time it so that I am not destroying habitat for the small mammals, birds and pollinators. The reasons I want to have it mowed are twofold; one because I feel that most of the grass has gone to head/lost its seeds (and are no longer acting as food and are potentially shading out a second bloom of clover which may also need cut?) and the invasives that I have mentioned. I prefer to not use herbicides.
I would also like to hand broadcast a cover crop that is heat tolerant, any suggestions? I do not own any seeding equipment other than my hands and a hand cranked broadcaster.

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

We suggest you have the field bush hogged now to help manage invasives. If Canada thistle is in specific areas, you can try smothering plants with weed barrier.

We're not sure what your goal is the cover crop. Summer cover crops include buckwheat, sudex (sorghum X sudangrass), southern peas/cowpeas. You must have seed to soil contact for decent stand otherwise it will be very spotty. You might consider paying a farmer to rough up the soil with a harrow, cultivator, discs, etc. to accomplish this.

If you have further questions, photos of the area in mind would be helpful.

Ellen