Mowing My Oats

Dateline: 16 October 2016, AD


You may recall that I planted oats as a cover crop in my garden back around the end of August, after harvesting the onions that were there (Click Here for details). The oats grew very well, as you can see in the above picture. Rather than let them be winter-killed, I decided to mow them down a couple days ago.

I have a scythe, but it isn't suited to mowing a relatively small garden bed. A sickle would have worked, but I decided to try using a small, cheap, cordless shrub trimmer. I bought it at Amazon for less than $40 (Click Here For Details). Here's a picture of the simple trimmer...


That little trimmer, with a little rechargeable battery, cut the whole 30ft long bed of oats and had power to spare. I'm impressed. But the tool doesn't slice through the stalks effortlessly if they are close together; I had to use a sawing motion in order to get them to fit into the guard notches, so they would feed into the cutting blade. Occasionally, the blade jammed, but only occasionally, and once I backed the cutter bar off it started right up again. 

In the final analysis, I think the concept of using the hedge trimmer to mow down small patches of cover crops is a good one (it's actually fun to do), but there are probably better quality trimmers—for  more money. 

Here's a picture of the mowed oats...


Those oat greens are laying thick over the bed. I'll let them stay right there until spring. So the bed will be covered for winter. It will be interesting to see what the soil looks like in the spring. It should be nice and mellow (as the old timers used to say). My plan is to plant the bed next year without digging it at all. It's a no-till gardening experiment.

Here's what the oats in that bed looked like just a couple of months ago...




14 comments:

  1. Hi Herrick, How tall were they when you mowed them? Are these the type of oats that you could harvest the heads from, and turn them into whole oats, aka as in oatmeal etc.? Mine are not going to get that tall before cold weather kills them off, so I am just going to let them go till they keel over.

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    1. Hi Everett,

      The oats were 3'6" tall. I was surprised they got that high without putting out grain heads. Yes, they would make oats if they had time. I have other oat beds that are much smaller and will never get that big before freeze. It sure was fun watching them grow in the garden!

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  2. Wondering if broadcasting the seed instead of drilling in rows would have had as good coverage. They sure looked healthy. Looking forward to see how well it works as mulch next year.
    Pam

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    1. I've broadcast rye seed in past years over my whole garden and it was usually somewhat spotty germination. I'm persuaded that planting the seed in a furrow, or drill (like farmer's do in the field) uses less seed and results in better germination.I bought a pound of oat seed, have planted a few beds in rows, and it looks like I've hardly used any of the seed.

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  3. Since you just mowed them down, will they not come right back up again? Will the winter kill the roots and all, or will they start growing again in the spring making it hard to do a no-till garden?

    Inquiring minds want to know. :)

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  4. They might regrow. But we're pretty close to getting real cold here and whatever grows will, I'm sure, be winter killed. That's the way oats are.

    But winter rye is a different story. Very hardy. I've planted a few of my new 30" square beds to winter rye. That will start regrowing in the spring, and it can be a problem. I plan to blog about winter rye soon.

    We both have inquiring minds. It's a good way to live. :-)

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  5. HI Herrick, I bought 10 pounds from Johnny's and used an Earthway wheeled planter. I ran the first row close to the edge, one foot print away. Then I just put the next row right next to the footprint made when I planted the first row. Err-- Does that make any sense? So any way they have come in thick and I am Happy as a clam!. Did a lot of sq.' and have half of the second bag left! Think I'll make oatmeal out of it! Ciao.

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    1. sounds good. I have an Earthway seeder, but haven't used it in a long time. What seed plate did you use?

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  6. Did you cut them so you don't have to till the residue in the spring?

    Matt the farmer

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  7. No, I cut them because they were getting so tall and I wasn't sure the little cutter I used would sever the dried and hardened stalks in the spring. And there was so much biomass there that I figured it was plenty to keep the ground mulched over winter. I won't be incorporating the cut greenery into the soil (as a green manure). It will serve as a mulch, while the root mass will remain in the soil and be food for the microorganisms. That's a way to feed the biology without mixing in compost, which I have always done and am now persuaded is not necessary. Compost as a top-dressing, with no digging or deep cultivation of the soil, is the approach I'm now taking. Along with a shredded leaf mulch.

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    1. Makes sense... nature fertilizes/feeds on the surface...

      We have tilled in compost and mulch in our garden in the past, but they generally sit on the surface during the growing season or over winter and get tilled in 3 to 6 months after being applied.

      Matt the Farmer

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    2. Makes sense... nature fertilizes/feeds on the surface...

      We have tilled in compost and mulch in our garden in the past, but they generally sit on the surface during the growing season or over winter and get tilled in 3 to 6 months after being applied.

      Matt the Farmer

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  8. Herrick,

    I seeded my cover crop which included oats, mung beans, peas, millet, etc. with an Earthway seeder. Following some info I found elsewhere on the web I used the beet plate and it has worked well. My cover crop was not seeded as early as yours but it is all good and will grow as much as it can.

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  9. weed eater reviews is the best choice. Personally i use this brand trimmer from many years. Thai's why i suggest people to use trimmer.

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