Alfalfa Experiment #1 is Dug Out
Alfalfa Experiment Number One was initially an attempt to grow new alfalfa seeds for making sprouts. The seed source was 15 year (more or less) old seed which was not working out well in the kitchen sprout department. Much of it germinated, but would rot before too long. It smelled rotten, you don't need to know more about that.
The gardener's experimenting spirit, which needs to be reigned in this year, thought that the plants might grow well in an alternate environment, like soil. There were a few unplanted patches in the garden which were immediately sprinkled with alfalfa seed. The plants came up and grew out quickly. So far I don't recall any flowers, much less seeds. (If they had flowers and seed heads, then I'd have to figure out how to harvest and process them.)
Since then, a couple of local gardeners have told me they had difficulty getting alfalfa to start up on their land. It's been going great guns here. This is a little close up of dense and happy alfalfa in my garden.
The gardener really does need to do more research BEFORE spontaneous action, and perhaps, someday she'll learn how, or at least might stop to think first. (Do you really believe that? Not sure that I do.)
Here's what the gardener knows now about alfalfa that she didn't last year:
1. Alfalfa spreads, real slowly, but very fully. Subtly it sneaks over the lines and looks as if its always been there, so bright and healthy that it makes one feel good just to gaze into its greenness.
2. Blister Beetles LOVE alfalfa. What's a blister beetle? You don't know? See, there's often a blessing which is yours of which you are not yet aware. This is excellent example for those in the "Count Your Blessings" School of Gardening. The Gardener didn't know about them until deep into the first Summer of Ozark gardening. A garden friend was visiting. He was new to the Organic Philosophy and had always used something like "Seven", so he'd never noticed the critter before. I innocently asked him what that new bug was. He didn't know, so I let it be. I saw it first on the potato leaves. Then there were more bugs. Many more, and then hardly any potato leaves. The bugs marched on to the tomatoes, the chard, and at last, to the place I couldn't get them out of, you guessed it - the Alfalfa.
There is no native Earth animal which preys upon the Blister Beetle (aka Potato Bug) and nothing likes to eat it either. Sadly, they are very poisonous to horses, which otherwise find alfalfa hay very tasty and good for them. I don't know how one can make alfalfa hay which does NOT contain the little critters. Well, not in my pasture land turned weed fields and garden. (This paragraph contains a clue to what may become Alfalfa Experiment #2. Stay tuned to find out.)
3. Yes, alfalfa roots do grow very deep. That was sort of clear to me before. Its part of what makes alfalfa a good crop to break through clay soil and bring deep minerals to the surface. Well, the minerals come into the plant, the plant goes into the compost or back into the top soil as green manure.
So how does one get rid of the alfalfa? Dig deeply. Oh. More shovel exercise.
Why would one want to get rid of the alfalfa? Oh, perhaps the land is needed. Perhaps it has grown beyond the space allotted to it, and the onions really do have to get planted.
This Spring the alfalfa is happily expanding beyond where it was planted. Below is the area which will be needed for the walkway beside this year's onion bed. It would be very hard to do a good shovel job removing it after the onions have been planted there, so its one more job that must be done while the onions languish in their temporary bed in the greenhouse. They could have been in the soil weeks ago, but that the gardener ... (Pick any excuse you like ... was writing blogs instead of gardening? Who knows?)
Dig those roots. Dig that soil.
Now that's a blessing I've been counting, with gratitude every single day.
(Most Ozark soil is just rocks and pebbles, this however, is a miracle.)
I would have liked, for soil development purposes, to leave the roots in the soil, allowing them to dispense their good nitrogen and feed the worms, etc.. However, I am aware that just cutting it at the stem would encourage it to grow back. Yes, it can be harvested like hay for many uses. But in this small space, I don't want to do that.
Now, what to do with all these uprooted plants? I do have an idea which might be Experiment #2. Perhaps you can tell me something helpful about this idea before I go to all the effort.
I gave away a huge bucketful of the roots and tops to our helper (who hadn't been able to start his own) to transplant in his garden. If that works for him, it will give me a hint if idea #2 will work.
Imagine that strong tap root placed into a gravel-like soil that has weed quality cactus growing on it. Would the alfalfa spread,taking over the light source and overpowering the root room of the cactus and kill it? Wouldn't that be cool?
Imagine this area of cactus and no garden plants attracting all the neighborhood blister beetles away from the garden! Wouldn't that be super cool?
Do you think it might work? Digging little holes to plant these roots in would be a big job. Oh, I still have some of those seeds left. Perhaps I could just plant the stuff out there instead of trying to transplant it! What a great idea!
If I hadn't been sharing this subject with you, that idea might not have come. Thanks so much for listening and sharing that idea with me, bending space and time to bring it to my consciousness. This insight shows me that there is a reason for writing and posting this garden journal. I have been wondering.
There are two other plots of alfalfa going strong inside the garden fence. The one by the onion patch is all removed. One of the others looks like this. It will be good fodder for the compost, or perhaps food for the chickens which the gardener might bring in to eat up the grasshoppers. But that's another story.
Thanks for visiting and sharing.
May all your experiments be Joyful!