Planting Alfalfa for Cover Crops and Compost


Hey everybody, it’s Christy from Gardenerd
and today we’re talking about planting a permanent alfalfa bed. Now why would I want to do that?
Well, it is food for your compost bin, which is a really cool thing. So you can plant alfalfa
as a cover crop, and then cut it down and turn it into your soil, but if you can dedicate
a space to a permanent crop of alfalfa you can let it go for years and years. So today
I’m planting organic, dormant alfalfa. And one of the reasons why it’s important to use
organic is because anything that is not organic could potentially be genetically engineered.
Now genetically engineered alfalfa was just approved for commercial agriculture. It’s
not right now available to home gardeners, but you never know where seed companies are
getting their sources. So make sure you get either or make sure that you buy seeds from
a company that takes the Safe Seed Pledge. You’ll find that in the catalog either in
the beginning of the catalog or around the order form. These seeds came from Bountiful
Gardens, which is up at Ecology Action in Willits, CA. It’s where John Jeavons does
his research for Grow BioIntensive. So these seeds are pretty small. I’m basically going
to pour them into my hand and sprinkle them into the seed holes that I’ve made already
from there. The instructions say to plant them on 5″centers, which means every seed
should be equally 5″ away from every other seed. So I’ve drilled holes 5″ apart for the
first row, then I’ve started the second row halfway in between the first and second holes
of the first row, and 5″ away from that. The whole bed has been drilled and we’re going
to plant the seeds a quarter inch deep. What happens next is I will probably back fill
this whole area, fill in the soil and my drip irrigation is already laid here. But I’m going
to need to hand water while I’m doing this. So for the first couple of weeks I’ll be hand
watering, because the drip irrigation doesn’t actually reach where all of my holes are.
Once they have a root system, they’ll be fine with the drip irrigation. Now, the cool thing
about this is once you’ve planted it, the seeds grow, they germinate and they grow to
plants that will be about 17″ high. And once they reach about that height you can cut them
down but you leave the roots in place. And then you have food for your compost bin. Alfalfa
is a high-nitrogen cover crop, and that means it kicks up the temperature of your compost
bin which is really cool. So you cut it down, you add it to your compost bin, temperature
goes up and you get compost faster and it’s higher in nutrients. Which is really cool.
So once I’ve planted all these seeds I’m going to probably need to cover them because there
are birds. And birds will seek these seeds. They really like to feed on them. So I’m going
to use floating row cover. Floating row cover is this gauzy material that easily can be
laid over the top of the whole bed. Mine’s a little bit rusty but you can see that it
just goes right over the bed like this and it covers the entire bed. And then use U-pins
like this to hold the corners in place. So I’ll be pinning those on the four corners
and then with this floating row cover I can water through the row cover and the sun gets
through too. So the seeds will germinate without the birds trying to steal them. How bad is
that? Not bad at all. For more information on alfalfa, cover crops, genetically engineered
crops and Safe Seed Pledges visit Gardenerd.com and if you like this video, like, subscribe
and share it with your friends. Happy Gardening!

9 thoughts on “Planting Alfalfa for Cover Crops and Compost

  1. Good video! I just sow them like the parable. They look good sprouting tight. I know they will compete and eventually, the fittest will survive, and the rest will end up as mulch.

  2. I love alfalfa. Eat it, chop and drop it, till it in fresh or make a tea with a hand full of fresh green in a 5gal bucket. When it stink you know its ready.

  3. 2/3 rds of the Organic Matter in your soil comes from roots. Alfalfa has deep roots.
    Korean Natural Farming soaks seeds in a Seed Soaking Solution to help them germinate.
    Deep roots aerate the soil and lets your soil retain water. That Soaking Solution is here Page 71 — https://ilcasia.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/chos-global-natural-farming-sarra.pdf

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