Seems like every time I cast out cover crop seeds the birds come threw and eat every last one of them. As i wright I'm watching probably 30 little guys tear threw the ones I put out just yesterday. I dont mind feeding the birds, but the cover crop blend at my feed store is like 8 bux a pound! Any ideas on how to get the seeds established?
Gotta find a way to either get those seeds under a bit of soil, under a bit of mulch, or make them unpalatable to birds.
Would lacing them with a bit of hot sauce do the trick? You might try making a slurry of chilies and poop or something like that, and mix the seeds in with it before you broadcast them. I've always got tons and tons or serrano chilies left over at the end of the season that I lay out to dry. They are pretty hot. I then grind them in a food processor and use them to cook with, but also to deter pests like raccoons (which are pretty tough to trap). Do birds have a tongue that would taste a hotly-spiced seed?
At the least, if you mix your seeds into a slurry of muddy goop and toss that out there, the seeds will be "wearing a bit of camo" and will not be as visible to the critters. It also might increase germination, as the soil to seed contact will certainly increase.
I gently scratch my cover crop seeds into the soil so they aren't readily visible to birds. The birds will still sometimes pluck them out when the sprout, put most survive. They like to dig out the oats, but leave stuff like legumes and radish alone.
Sometimes I'll broadcast by hand into a standing cover crop that is on its last legs, and then once the new crop sprouts and begins to emerge, I'll take off the old crop. I do this in the fall, as the warm-season crop is dying, and I'm planting the cool season mix. This is a great way to get a ton of biomass onto and into the soil in a short time. Once the winter cover crop emerges, I'll hand "combine" the seeds from the standing crop, and then gently knock it down.
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Marco has some good ideas.
What I do is to scratch an area, spread the seeds, rake over and tamp.
I do this in patches instead of a huge area at a time, I can cover an acre in a day this way and my seed has good soil contact, is mostly covered to keep moisture in to germinate and the birds don't seem to get such easy pickings.
You can also coat the seeds with a liquid seed starter but then you have to let that dry before broadcasting.
I go by this method for depth of seeds, small seeds like most grasses 1/4 inch deep, larger seeds like clovers, most brassicas 1/2 inch, big seeds like squashes 1 inch.
I'm getting ready to do a new two acre pasture in the next few weeks.
I don't know if all birds are like this, but many birds are fine earing hot stuff. They make hot pepper suit slabs for them. I like the idea of mixing them in a muck that might camouflage the seeds. It's a large aria that I'm trying to seed so it's hard to scratch them into the soil. It's bare soil right now because I cut up the blackberry monocrop that was growing in the aria. I have some mulched up cans on the ground but the birds are picking threw it for the seeds.
Patrick is right about birds eating hot stuff. It's my understanding only mammals have taste bud receptors for capsaicin, the compound that makes chili's spicy. Hence the spicy bird seeds and suets to deter squirrels. I believe a good approach is to spread some straw. If this happens all the time and you sow cover crops every year, there are electronic devices on the market that emit audible calls of predatory birds thus scaring off other birds. Maybe buying one of those could alleviate the problem.
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Lots of discussion on this thread. Lots of cheap cover crop ideas.
I agree with Bryant, if you have essentially bare soil, work it in with a rake and you will be astounded. Also, do it when the soil is damp so there are only a few days before it germinates, then they won't bother it.
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Some weeks ago I made seedballs from sunflowerseeds mixed with compost and clay. It was a failure. I hoped my chickens wouldnt be interested in the seedballs, but it didnt take them long to understand how to get to the seeds. I made between 100 and 200 seedballs, and yesterday I checked, I have 5 sunflower seedlings as a result..
Last year I tried to get a field of sunflowers by direct seeding, but the mice ate the seeds, left the hulls nicely on a heap.. So now I am sprouting the sunflowers in a nursery, and plant them one by one.
Yeah, the time we tried to plant a whole field of lentils at our school, the partridges just came and picked them all out. we quickly tore up old video cassettes and strung an obstacle course across the field since the partridges mostly run on the land. So then little sparrows came and finished the job. We ended up with a few sparse lentil plants and a lot of cassette tape detritus every which way! ... I'm sorry I don't have a suggestion for you. Cats? Dogs?...
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.
I think for it to work you need to fill in enough hot stuff that the birds smell it when they are trying to get at your seed. It hurts. I need to get a gas mask for when I grind my peppers. It should hurt anything that breaths. I seem to remember a cloud of the stuff getting away from a plant in New Mexico and killing a few people.
That said, if it works, it will only work till it rains or sprinkles.
I have heard about ground pepper corns. Does this work on birds? I cannot get anything to stick. I even bury the seeds in a little soil underneath a nice bit of wood chips and I do not even have chickens.
I have had to resort to planting seedlings in past years for a few plants in hopes they will help seed future generations. Even then I have deer problems... I am really looking forward to property I can build a nice deer fence on.
Depending on the area to be seeded some have had success with tarps. Covering the are with black tarps increases the heat, helping germination, and it keeps the birds and a lot of rodents off. The trick is to uncover the area a few days after they have germinated. Many seeds can take no sun for up to 21 days and will just grow based on the nutrition in the seed. But you need to pull the tarp off before the new seedlings die.
A lot of birds will come to fresh disturbed earth to look for bugs and worms, so raking in may or may not work. Raking in PLUS some mulch spread to hold moisture (like a thin layer of straw that won't blow away) is a best bet.
I lived where there was a heron preserve and kept ponds (fancy koi and large goldfish) and they could land in early morning and clean out your pond. And were protected. So we would put monofilament fishing line in a 4' grid above our heads and over the pond (you had to have a good fence around your pond too, tall). The birds had about a 6' wingspan and couldn't see the monofilament line in half grey dawn and when they'd brush it with a wing it would freak them out and they'd veer off instead of trying to land. For starting-in an area, I agree with floating row cover for a few days. It usually allows water through, the birds can't see the seeds, and once your sprouts are up, take the cover off.
I've put brown potato sacks down as mulch (I buy whole rolls of it) and the seeds can grow through it and it breaks down in time. This is mainly an erosion control trick - but it could work for the first time you plant a cover crop too, as long as you don't have to repeat it every year. I do believe it was cheaper than tarp/shade cloth etc. by the meter, and even though I covered the entire slope from my front door down to the riverbed, I still have half a roll left...
Great idea with the hot sauce - I suppose it could keep rats out of my beds too...
First of all, birds don't have the receptors to "taste" the heat from capsicums, so wate of time there.
Second, how do ya suppose the "conventional" farmers manage? If the patch is small enough, just mulching with straw generally works. Helps retain moisture and protect the seed. Make sure to use chopped straw in areas due to lots of wind or the wind will catch the longer straw and tend to roll it up on itself. Sprinklers or some sort of irrigation ona timer also helps.
For larger areas there's an implement known variously as a cultipacker that is available with a simple clevis hitch for towing smaller ones (4-6' wide and weighted with concrete blocks) behind an ATV or riding mower, or the larger ones that are set up for 3 point hitch use on a tractor. The device has one or more steel rollers with what looks like squared off teeth covering the drum surface. The teeth break up dirt clumps and fills voids while creating shallow depressions in the soil to catch your seed. It also does a great job of tamping shallow set seed and giving it good soil contact.
The ultimate, and by far much superior method, is to plant using a seed drill. This device is pretty pricey, so you might do better looking for a neighbor who owns one and paying them to plant for you. The implement provides the best control of precise seed placement which not only saves on seed, but prevents over seeding, which actually decreases germination rates due to too much competition between the seeds that you do want to grow.
Industrial farming may seem crazy with many of its means and methods, but they do have some of the coolest tools and gadgets. Our biggest challenge was finding someone organic who owned one, since the petro-chemical "conventional" farmers all use treated seed that leaves a decided and undesirable residue from their seeds' fungicidal treatments.
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built a simple ole timey hay rake only with fewer tines. I drag that across the soil twice with a little offset on the second pass. That leaves lightly scratched rows. Broadcast my seed. I then drag a short length of discarded chain link fence across the same spot. I will still lose some seed to the birds. But it works well enough.
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