What About All That Rain?

Patricia M. Arledge, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  11/16/2015 8:43:07 PM

News Article for October 26, 2015:

I grew up hearing that when it rains it pours and that was true for our drought relief. My rain gauge overflowed but something above 8 inches of rain seemed to be a common number for our 36 hour rain total.

I know that those who have planted winter pastures and food plots alike were happy to see the rain but they are also anxious about the effects of that much rain. I would suspect that all the seed planted is fine especially where you harrowed or rolled it in. My only concern would be where you might have sod seeded (without plowing) and during the heaviest part of the rain if you had surface runoff the seed could have floated away. The water holding capacity of most of our soils is high enough that we should have been able to capture most of that steady rain. Cool season annuals should germinate within a week to 10 days of the rain so you should be able to tell what is going on very soon.

Another concern is about fertilizer. That too would be dependent on the way you incorporated the fertilizer and the slope of the land. Pay close attention to the color of the grass after it comes up and starts growing. You can tell that you have run out of nitrogen (or lost it) when the grass turns a very light color and growth slows when growing conditions are good. In most cases I would not think there was a lot of nitrogen loss since the rain was slow and both the topsoil and subsoils were so dry before the rain.

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For those who like to leave their garden fallow during the winter now would be a good time to plant a green manure or cover crop. This is a practice which can help to replenish the soil nutrients and add organic matter.

Most of our soils have very low organic matter naturally and as you plow the land you tend to reduce the amount of organic matter. Organic matter is the component in the soil that makes it more forgiving of our mistakes. It increases the water holding capacity of the soil, holds micronutrients and makes the soil easier to work.

Cool season cover crops could be in the grass family such as wheat, oats, rye or ryegrass. A better choice may be to plant a legume. Legumes make their own nitrogen and when you plow them under, in addition to organic mature, nitrogen will be released into the soil to be used by your vegetables.

Legumes to consider for your cool season cover crop would include clovers, Austrian winter peas, common vetch and hairy vetch. Plant these crops as soon as possible now but complete that task before the end of November.

Seeding rates for green manure crops expressed as pound per acre are: ryegrass 50#, rye and wheat- 90#, oats 100#, hairy vetch 25#, common vetch 40#, Austrian winter peas 30#, white and ball clover 5#, red clover 12#, crimson clover and subterranean clover 15#. To convert seeding rates to 1000 ft2 divide the seeding rate per acre by 44 (approximately 44,000 ft2/acre).

The cover crops will grow through the winter reducing your winter weed problems and will cut down on erosion. When the weather breaks in late winter, plow the cover crop into the garden, hopefully about 4 to 6 weeks prior to planting. This will allow for some decomposition of the plant material and nutrient release prior to planting your vegetables.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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