For some reason I had this urge to grow alfalfa last fall. Maybe it was the picture of their dainty purple flower or dark glossy leaves that drew me to the plant. Or perhaps, the health benefits of alfalfa? Or maybe because the bees love it. Who knows? But now I have two raised beds full of gorgeous alfalfa.
Sometimes growing certain plants is a gut reaction that is often unexplained. I call it growing form the hip. Grow it and then figure it out.
Last fall, I seeded two beds and worried that the seeds won’t take. General rule of thumb is plant the seeds a 1/2 inch deep. I sprinkled the seeds and then covered them lightly with compost.
Mind you, I was a little late in seeding. It is best to seed no later than 6-8 weeks before frost date. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my act together to seed until 4 weeks before frost date. Boy, was I lucky that we had a late fall freeze.
Consider covering the beds with summer cloth covers. I learned my lesson about seeding and birds. (By the way, I love these covers.) You don’t even want to know how much of my freshly laid oat seeds were devoured by those pesky crows. (Remember, I planted oats as ground cover last fall?)
Was I incensed? You betcha.
So, I learned my lesson with my alfalfa. Organic alfalfa is too expensive for me to simply give it away to the birds. (Um, thanks to our friends Monsanto who now offer GMO alfalfa.)
By frost date, I had a tight row of small alfalfa in both beds. I held my breath until Spring hoping it would return. (Not really, silly. I would be dead. Just a figure of speech. Remember, I am the ultimate gardening drama queen.)
Spring Came, and Houston We Have Lift Off
When Spring arrived, the gardening gods came me a pass for seeding late, and lo and behold. I had alfalfa. See my video below of my Spring alfalfa. I sound like one proud Mama.
Hubby turned to me with exasperation and said, “what are you going to do with the alfalfa? We don’t own horses or cows.”
Um, didn’t really think that far in advance. It is all about the gardening journey…
When to Harvest Alfalfa
When the beautiful dainty purple flowers start to appear, don’t be memorized by the flowers. General rule of thumb: when 1/10th of the plants bloom, go ahead and harvest. (It happens fairly quickly in the Spring. Beginning of May for zone 6.) Be like Freddy Kruger and hack away. Seriously. You should cut it down to about 2 inches from its crown.
I took garden shears and hacked away. Heck, it was hard since it looked like bed head hair. All gnarly, falling over and a general mess. And no, it doesn’t all stand up straight and perfect. Alfalfa is just not a coiffed girl.
The plant is about 2 feet tall when it flowers.
I was scared to death that I killed the plants since they looked so pathetic. However, in just a few days I saw growth and I did the happy dance.
Normally, you can harvest a couple of time during the growing period. I am being cautious about harvesting again given our warm summer and its first year. It isn’t looking as beautiful due to the heat.
I did see a bloom but again, I am waiting.
What Am I going to Do with the Alfalfa?
Um, working on the possibilities. Right now it is laying inside drying on my laundry room floor. From two 8 by 4 beds, I harvested about 6 large beach towel worth. (Great measuring tools.) Catch, my next post on the benefits of alfalfa.
Join the Conversation:
- Do you grow alfalfa?
- Do grow certain plants because you just think they are beautiful? If so, which ones?
- Do you garden from the hip and figure it out afterwards? (Oh, come on. I know I am not the only one.)
- Do you eat alfalfa sprouts? If so, why?