Planting cover crops between August 15th and September 15th is ideal. However, depending on fall temperatures, they can be planted as late as October 1st.
This means you will need to “interseed” or “intercrop” within your late summer or early fall vegetables. After weeding for the last time of the year, create furrows in the soil approximately ½” to 1” deep with a hoe, lightly sprinkle your cover crop seed into the furrows. Then cover the seed with soil thereby burying the seed. The cover crops will germinate between your vegetables and not present any issues to growth.
You can also broadcast the seed evenly over your garden and rake in.
Will I need to water cover crops?
If the weather is hot and dry in August and or September, then it may be necessary to water your cover crops to ensure good germination and growth. Otherwise, cover crops will grow well without much attention to water needs.
What happens if they produce seed?
If planted too early, oats may produce a seed before they die due to frosts. In this case, it is best to cut the tops of the oats off as they are flowering but before they produce seed. Crimson Clover, Cereal Rye, and Hairy Vetch will not flower until sometime early to mid-spring. They will need to be cut down as they are flowering but before seeding.
If they produce seed it is likely best to cut and remove the plant to limit weedy issues in the garden. However, some gardeners are okay with this as a cover crop in the midst of your vegetables is not inherently bad. In fact, it can be beneficial.
What do I do if I want to plant early spring vegetables and the cover crops aren’t ready?
There are a few options to accommodate for this.
Option 1: Plant Oats
In the area you plan to grow early spring vegetables, using oats as a cover crop is ideal. Oats will die during the winter.
Option 2: Row Method
Plant the cover crops in rows so that you can then plant your vegetables in-between the rows of cover crops in the spring. The cover crops would then need to be cut while they are flowering to terminate. However, planting between cereal rye is not advisable due to its allelopathic properties that suppresses most vegetable growth.
Option 3: Tilling
The least preferred option as it relates to soil health is tilling. Tilling in the cover crops within the area you’d like to plant your early spring vegetables will terminate the cover crops with the exception of cereal rye which may return in small amounts.
Terminating (i.e. killing)
There are several ways to terminate cover crops. The best method for many gardeners is the “cut and cover” method. At your convenience, but ideally when the cover crop is flowering (for the greatest soil health benefits), cut down the cover crop with shears, hedge trimmer, mower, etc. and cover with an opaque material like black plastic or opaque landscape fabric to stop photosynthesis. This will also suppress early annual weeds.
Other options of terminating include tilling (though cereal rye may still come back in small amounts), herbicide application, and cutting at the most vulnerable moment for the cover crop which is usually when it is flowering. Cereal rye can be “crimped” with a special tool but is not practical for many smaller gardens.
Cicero, IN (August 2019) – As concern grows in our communities regarding water quality, there are farmers utilizing conservation practices that are making a difference. The practices they have implemented, often voluntarily, are protecting waterways and water quality in Indiana and beyond. Amy Jo Farmer (yes that is her real name) in Hamilton County is one of those farmers and she is one of the 47 farmers who received the statewide award of ‘River Friendly Farmer’ at the Indiana State Fair on Farmers’ Day, August 14. This award, hosted by the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD), recognizes landowners and farmers in the state of Indiana for the work they do on their land to protect Indiana’s natural resources. Amy Jo Farmer was nominated by the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Indiana Lieutenant Governor, Suzanne Crouch, and President of Indiana Farm Bureau, Randy Kron, presented each recipient with an award certificate and ribbon. Amie Simpson, Brownfield Ag News, emceed the ceremony with Jerry Raynor, Indiana State Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and IASWCD President, Roger Wenning making brief remarks.
Some of the reasons Amy was nominated for this recognition are the many conservation practices she has installed on her farm, such as:
The deep roots of tall native grasses and alfalfa on the farm provide pollution barriers to filter out potential nutrients and sediment in storm water run-off. The use of various conservation practices enable organic matter to return to the soil. In return, the lively soil supports a blossoming diversity of plants, insects and wildlife, contributing to the natural food chain, and creating beauty in the landscape. Native flowers contribute nectar for the bees, and bee products benefit humans. Season extension is made possible by the high tunnel, which gives local residents a chance to consume fresh produce year round.
Water that potentially contains sediment and nutrient run-off from nearby properties drains through the farm and is filtered by the CRP barrier around the perimeter. Runoff water is detained by the grassed waterway so that it can drain in a slower and more sustainable time frame, taking less soil and debris with it as it enters the regulated drain and goes to the reservoir.
Amy raises heritage hogs, dairy goats, hens and honey bees, and some of the breeds are on the Livestock Conservancy's conservation watch-list. Raising honey bees contributes to plant pollination in the surrounding environment, not just on the farm. Feeding livestock organic grain reduces the use of treated products and potential environmental contaminants. Feeding livestock farm raised organic hay, reduces hay transportation pollution as well as reduces the use of outside inputs. Small herd size helps to meet food self-sufficiency and personal food responsibility goals. Rotational grazing helps to mitigate potential ground erosion.
The fresh and nutritious products Amy provides to the community include certified organic hay for homesteaders, meat producers, and animal keepers of many kinds. Her honey bee products and certified organic produce is also available at a roadside stand. The farm further benefits the community by paying strong young workers good money for the hard work of baling hay. Amy also hosts farm site visits for local youth and adults who are curious or interested in conservation and agriculture.
The River Friendly Farmer Award has been presented by the IASWCD and sponsored by the 92 local Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. since 2000. This year’s group of award winners brings the total number of River Friendly Farmers in Indiana since the awards beginning to 1008.
For a complete list of this year’s winners along with a short bio and photo (if provided), go to: http://iaswcd.org/river-friendly-farmer-award/.
Obviously this has been a very difficult year for most farmers, and although most of the crops were eventually planted, there are fields scattered across the county that did not get planted. On those fields farmers have been trying to make the best decisions possible with the information available, which in itself has been updated several times. The SWCD has made every effort to get the latest information to producers as soon as it reached our hands, and we continue to do that.
If you are still in a situation where you have an unplanted field, it is not too late to do something, and particularly, planting a cover crop. The federal guidelines, potential cost share, crop insurance considerations, etc., have all seemed to evolve almost daily, but below is the latest information we know of at this point in time, and the quickest way to get this to you is through this means. If you have questions, please call NRCS (765) 482-6355 Ext.3, your local FSA office Tipton (765) 675-2316, Boone (765) 482-6355, Madison (765) 644-4249, or the Hamilton County SWCD (317) 773-2181.
New "EQIP Disaster Relief" recently available !
If you are interested in funding for cover crops on your prevented planting acres the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) may help. Funding has recently became available. Up to $28/acre may qualify! Deadline is August 9! NOTE: You must get enrolled in the program prior to planting the cover crop, and there are some restrictions on the cover crops chosen (i.e. 50% of the seed mix has to be winter hardy).
The phone numbers for local USDA-Farm Service Agencies are, Tipton (765) 675-2316, Boone (765) 482-6355, Madison (765) 644-4249.
Attached to this email are the application forms and information about this program for your reference, please return the CCC-1200 form application pages 1-4, the 1199 direct deposit form and maps of the locations you wish to plant to the NRCS office by August 9th. See attached forms.
The EQIP program has special incentives (special audiences) for military veterans, beginning farmers and agricultural landowners with limited means. To be eligible as a Limited Resource farmer the applicant must have an average household income below the poverty level for that county. If the land is under the control of an entity all members of that entity would have to be meet the criteria of special groups in order for the entity to qualify (i.e. all trust member must be veterans to receive veteran preference), see the application for more information.
2019 Market Facilitation Program Update
USDA recently announced the payment rates and program information for the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP), geared toward farmers whose commodities may have been impacted by recent trade disputes. Information about the program is available at link below. In summary, payments will be divided into three tranches, with the first payable in mid-to-late August. For Hamilton County, total payments will amount to $70/acre of eligible 2019 planted crops. Cover crops on prevented planting ground are eligible for a $15/acre payment, but must be planted by August 1, 2019.
FSA emphasized that to be eligible to receive the MFP Payments, a producer must have certified all of their cropland. This means certification of planted acres, as well as certification of acres on which prevented planting claims were filed. The certification deadline has passed (7/22/19). Late certification is possible with payment of a $46 late fee per farm. Planting a cover crop does not affect your eligibility for MFP payment on your regular acres of planted cropland. Failing to certify all of your acreage will impact your eligibility. Cover crops should be certified within 15-days of planting.
Federal Crop Insurance
From a crop-insurance perspective, there is no direct financial incentive to plant cover crops, though there are obvious benefits to soil health and fertility. Your 2019 actual production history (APH yields) will not be impacted for prevented planting acres, regardless of cover-crop status. Your APH may be impacted by poor yields this year. If farmers elected to purchase the “Yield Exclusion” option available with their federally subsidized crop insurance, their APH will be spared if the 2019 county average yield falls at least 50-percent below the county’s average yield for that crop for the past 10 years. (For example, in 2012, Hamilton County received Yield Exclusion for their yellow corn yields, while Madison and Tipton counties did not.). More information on the yield exclusion is available below.
Ginger Davis, Conservation Administrator
The Soil and Water Conservation District along with two neighborhoods, James Place and Wellington Northeast in Noblesville have been discussing what could be done with Stony Creek to help reduce erosion and to recreate the flowing stream that once flowed from Greenfield Avenue down to White River. After investigating and talking with experts, it was suggested that the quality urban habitat and stream conditions were well suited to investigate the issue further. With the awarded $40,000 grant through the Lake and River Enhancement, an engineering feasibility study will help determine the best course of action to address the stream bank issues, downcutting issues, and the influence from low head dams in the area. The goal of the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish & Wildlife's Lake and River Enhancement (LARE) Program is to protect and enhance aquatic habitat for fish and wildlife, and to ensure the continued viability of Indiana's publicly accessible lakes and streams for multiple uses, including recreational opportunities.
The stream, which once flowed along a 1,900-foot bend in the stream along the edge of James Place, now takes a 500-foot shortcut through the land of the Welling ton Northeast homeowners. That is a loss of 1,400 feet of stream habitat, along with several tons of sediment that is making its way down Stony Creek and the White River. As a result, the homeowners have seen a loss of land and increase in long lasting flooding conditions in their backyards. Additional speed (rate of flow) of Stony creek is likely due to the increase slope in the short-cut making bank erosion more serious as Stony Creek makes its way to the White River. The grant is necessary due to the complexity of the project and the potential for loss to infrastructure in this area.
The original Stony Creek channel was blocked during a utility crossing and has progressively been further blocked over the years causing an unnatural meander cut-off to occur. Erosion of the side channel due to this alignment causes significant erosion with continual loss of trees and other sources of bank stability. The original channel area has been used as a utility crossing, which may have been the source of blockage. This crossing has been utilized for many years and local accounts mention that the area has been filled with stone by utility workers. We believe that the excess stone from utilities crossing, along with the construction of the under-stream sewage line, stream realignment in between the late 1980’s and early 1990’s under Greenfield Ave during road reconstruction, and construction of a low head dam in the 1960’s, all have contributed to the issue at hand.
The channel diversion has cut through to an area that previously had a minor drainage feature. Visual evidence has suggested that this channel is experiencing downcutting and bank loss at an extremely fast rate. Aerial imagery shows that in one particular location since 2009, approximately 1,400 square feet of bank has been lost. This channel, once only 5.6 ft wide is now averaging 28 ft. Along the new short-cut, an estimated 8,750 square feet of land area has been impacted by erosion and carried to the White River.
The original channel has a legal drain that enters into it from the north which historically was a location of the Bridgestone Clean-up site. PCB levels in Fish Tissue have retreated below detection level in this area along with well samples and other measurements taken from this area showing that the PCBs are not an issue. Restoring this area to a recreational asset would be of benefit to the community as a result of this.
A low head dam constructed in the late 1950's and rerouting of the stream in the late 80s early 90s may also have been catalysts to this adjustment. These stresses on the system, caused the stream to actively cut off a meander, which has caused significant bank erosion and head cutting of the stream. We believe that if left unaddressed this channel head cutting will proceed under the bridge of Greenwood Avenue. This would compromise the structural integrity of the bridge-- making it a potential hazard for the community. The head cutting may continue adjusting upstream to the low head dam. There would be the potential for the low head dam to become more dangerous to recreational users with an enlarged plunge pool. The high-quality steam upstream of the dam has been restored for wetland function and would be a great location for aquatic species to retreat to during flooding events from the White River.
However, the low head dam makes it impossible for fish and other aquatic wildlife to move upstream to calmer waters during a flooding event. The low head dam in this area blocks sediment and therefore has been filling in the recreational pond with sediment making it much more like a stream in recent years.
The LARE funded engineering feasibility study will be conducted by a third party to determine the best method to address the situation in this area to make it much more stable and allow for increased habitat in this urban center.
By Jenny Blake- Conservation/Outreach Technician
Noblesville West Middle School Garden Club and HCSWCD Partner to Develop Accessible Raised Garden Beds
Andrew Fritz, Urban Agriculture Conservationist
Accessible raised beds are important for persons with physical disabilities and for the elderly but also for anyone who has limitations in movement. But building a raised bed to accommodate all needs is difficult. For example, the raised garden bed must support a lot of weight especially when the soil is wet. It must be deep enough for roots to grow. It should allow for persons in wheelchairs to not only fit underneath the raised bed but be able to reach across it as well. And then, of course, it should last for more than a few years by delaying rotting while avoiding treated lumber for food safety purposes.
But this is a challenge that Emily Crapnell, Noblesville West Middle School science teacher and Garden Club sponsor, reached out to the HCSWCD urban agriculture program for assistance in 2018. The Garden Club, started in 2013, was in the process of a renovating their garden space which now required raised beds with some of them being accessible.
A traditional accessible raised garden bed (like this one) tend to rot or sag within a few years and do not allow for a person in a chair to reasonably reach all areas of the garden. Other raised bed options were cost prohibitive, like the Terraform Wheelchair Accessible Garden. Furthermore, the VegTrug, regretfully not discovered until this year, has a biodegradable permeable liner that allows water to come into contact with the wood. This means that the liner would need to be replaced meaning the soil would have to come out with it. This is cumbersome.
With no other viable options to meet our needs, we decided to design and build one ourselves. After some searching, we discovered accessible raised beds from the Sedona Winds Assisted Living Healing Garden, which became our primary source of inspiration. The design was contemporary, clean, and used sturdy construction that would appear to hold up over time. Conversations with Sedona Winds indicated that they were a success, too.
After conceptualizing by hand, the design was imported in SketchUp to help us visualize how users could interact with it.
The materials being used varied in size to achieve the look we were hoping for. We avoided using treated lumber and used only food-grade plastics (HDPE) to line the trough of the bed. The bottom of the trough would include a drainage pipe to decrease water-logging and, therefore, weight. Furthermore, the design would be fitted with irrigation.
Additional Model Images
Constructing First Raised Garden Bed
Together, we built the first bed to work out any kinks. Ideally, the project would require at least two people. And, if you had to build more than one, you could do so easily by cutting two (or more) of everything you needed.
The finished beds look and function as planned! Should you choose to construct something similar, consider the following recommendations:
Jenny Blake, Conservation Technician/Outreach Assistant