I purchased some Lucerne seeds with my last order from Green Harvest and here is some of my thinking behind this.
- The second highest (the first being taste) reason for growing my own veggies is to save money. In my mind it seems pointless to spend $100.00 preparing and maintaining a crop that you could buy from a fruit and veggie shop for forty or fifty dollars, not counting the hours spent tending the crop.
- So with the above thought in my head I decided to grow my own lucerne and make my own mulch/straw. I can place a few plants here and there where it is not practical to grow veggies like along the fence line, around the edge of the chook pen, between the roses, etc, etc.
- A nitrogen source for my compost.
- The deep tap root will help lift nutrients from deep within the soil making it a welcome addition to my compost
- Also due to finical constraints (like I don't have enough money) and a green tinge on my part for the environment I have unregistered my car and am now push pike bound which makes it very difficult to get bales of mulch and trying to save money means delivery is out of the question so grow my own it is.
- I can harvest it as needed let it dry in the sun and bung it through the muncher if need be.
- The chooks will get a feed every now and then of fresh lucerne.
- It smells nice
- Lucerne is a upright perennial winter vigorous legume (more on legumes/cover crops below).
- It has purple flowers and a strong, very deep tap root.
- Lucerne prefers deep well-drained soils, with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.
- It will not tolerate water logging even for short periods but is tolerant of frosts.
- (I'd like more info on this fact) The tender leaves are used as a vegetable and as a tea.
- The leaves are rich in methionine whatever that is), an essential amino acid.
- Lucerne flowers attract beneficial insects such as assassin bugs (who said gardening was boring), parasitic wasps, and ladybeetles (my favorite).
- It is useful as an orchard cover crop and as a mulch plant in the garden.
- It is also a highly nutritious animal forage.
- Cover crops provide a living carpet of perennial plants for orchards, this 'living mulch' can provide many advantages, especially compared to grass, which aggressively competes with fruit trees for water and nutrients. Cover crops can;
- Suppress weeds without the use of herbicides
- Protect valuable topsoil from wind and water erosion
- Reduce compaction caused by frequent mowing.
- Increase organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro organisms
- Increase the soil's available nitrogen and moisture retention
- Provide habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects
- Improve water, root and air penetration in the soil.
- Legumes are plants such as clover, lucerne, peas, beans, medics and chickpeas. An important advantage of legumes is their unusual ability to obtain nitrogen, a major element need for plant growth, from the soil air, as most plants are unable to do this. They do this by forming a symbiotic relationship with a group of bacteria called Rhizobium, which live within a special structure, called a nodule, on the plant's roots. The Rhizobia can take nitrogen from the air and convert it to the form plants normally obtain from the soil. This process is called nitrogen fixation.
Well that's it for now. Any feedback or questions are welcome.
Cheers and happy gardening