Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Sequel - Lucerne

Kate from Hills and Plains Seedsavers left a comment regarding my Lucerne planting...
...and this morning gave me a reminder! winkredfacewink

Information on Growing Lucerne:
I bought this seed from Green Harvest They have 2 varieties one spring, summer vigorous 'Hunter River' and this one 'Sequel' that's winter vigorous. It comes with the necessary inoculate but once this is in the soil you shouldn't need to use it again.
They recommend planting both in March - May or Aug - Oct in Temperate areas.
I may be a bit early with this lot but I like to get things established before the real cold temps hit in May.

Up here it grows well after rain
and lately that could be anytime!
...if we are lucky!

When we first established the Fruit Tree area I sowed Lucerne between the trees. This I sowed direct and as we had a more reliable rainfall then (14 years ago) it grew with little extra watering. These days I prefer to start it off in cell trays.
Once it's established it needs little extra water due to it's very deep root system that also brings up (mines) soil nutrients from lower levels in the ground.

From the Green Harvest site's planting tips:
"Make sure you've corrected any nutrient deficiency and have a non-acidic pH Lucerne won't grow if pH is less than 5.5
Seed should be covered with 2-3times the width of seed and the soil firmed.
Should be irrigated for germination if not raining."

Inoculating the seed is important if Lucerne has never been grown in your soil before. I didn't inoculate that first crop though and it grew well. So the necessary Rhizobia must have already been present in the soil.

Reasons I grow Lucerne - Medicago sativa:
  • It's a valuable companion plant,
  • It's a legume that fixes nitrogen (with correct rhizobia present in the soil; it's the relationship between these bacteria and the nodules on the legume roots that do this)
  • It's flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden
  • Important in my garden is that it is drought tolerant once established.
  • It's a multi use plant; fodder, cut-mulch, and the above, it also protects the soil from drying out and suppresses weed growth.
  • It is a valuable food for the chooks!


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