Topical tips for outwintering

Published 6 June 14

Don’t let slugs get the better of newly planted alternative forages, warns Helen Mathieu, from Germinal Seeds.

There is a great deal of interest in alternative forages both as catch crops and for outwintering, the majority of which are brassicas or contain brassicas. Soil temperatures are ideal now to sow all these crops, so aim to drill as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.

For the ‘main’ outwintering crops, ie – kale or swede, attention to detail with the seed bed will pay dividends. Look to provide a clean, fine, firm seed bed. Similar to a grass reseed, shallow drill and make sure you have good soil fertility.  As a general rule of thumb, kale needs to be sown by the last week in June.

The ‘catch’ crops for summer or early autumn grazing can generally be direct drilled immediately after silage ground is cleared. Should summer turn out to be dry, effecting grass production, the early drilled catch crops will provide valuable grazing before a late summer reseed. If you are unsure which will suit your system, the modern hybrid rape/kale crosses offer rapid establishment and growth, as well as winter hardiness, yield and quality, so fit most situations without the risk.

A couple words of warning:  if you can use a treated seed it will give some protection against pest attacks during the early stages and could pay dividends if you don’t like spraying.  Secondly, the current weather pattern is conducive to much slug activity and brassicas are one of their favourites. Apply slug pellets at the time of sowing or monitor very closely and be prepared to treat urgently. 

Keep a close eye on all these crops. They are very cheap to grow and provide very cost effective, quality fodder, with a little attention to detail they can reach their optimum and maximum yields.

For more information, about outwintering crops click here.