How to Plant Winter Rye

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Winter rye is a type of grass that provides food for livestock in the cooler months. Farmers use this cover crop as a way to prolong their grazing season into the later months of autumn. Rye also can help improve the quality of poor soil, as it has the ability to absorb extra nitrogen in the soil. Winter rye does not require large amounts of water, making it a good winter crop in areas that do not get much snow.

Things You'll Need

  • Rake
  • Rye seed
  • Garden hose or irrigation system

Determine the best planting time for your winter rye crop. This will depend on your location and when you usually get your first frost. Northern and midwestern states that experience bitter cold winters should plan on planting between late August and mid-September. Mid-Atlantic and southern states may be able to hold off on planting until October.

Prepare your garden or field for planting by raking out the soil into a flat, smooth surface. Winter rye performs well in most types of soil that is well-drained, but does best when the soil is sandy or loam-like in character. Remove any plants that have not survived into the fall as you clear the area.

Plant, or broadcast, your rye seed. Commercial farm and other large areas can accommodate up to two pounds of seed for every 1000 square-foot area. Measure your garden's size and reduce the ratio of seed to footage as necessary.

Rake the garden again, so that the rye seeds are covered with soil.

Water the newly-planted rye grass immediately after planting, making sure the soil is wet, but not over-watered and muddy. You will need to water the area again two to three times over the course of the fall as the rye begins to germinate. Time the waterings according to precipitation and general observation--if the soil is bone dry, give it some water.

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