Now that I’ve got your attention, what in Sam Hill am I talking about? Am I advocating growing the “demon weed” in defiance of DEA edicts? This is a GARDENING blog, not a drug advocacy rant. Okay, I have to digress here and say that “weed” is a naturally occurring plant and as such should be left out of drug policy, but that’s just my own libertarian tendencies sneaking out when I wasn’t looking. But seriously, what “hemp” am I talking about?
First, I hope we all agree that bare ground is a bad idea. It is wasteful for solar energy to fall on bare ground with nothing present to capture it. It (bare ground) is susceptible to erosion, compaction and temperature extremes. So, cover crops are mandatory in order to collect solar energy, keep the little beasties in the soil happy and fed, and protect bare soil from erosion and compaction. Most importantly, cover crops are a CHEAP method of putting valuable nitrogen into the soil for just the cost of seeds, plus you get THOUSANDS of pounds of organic matter for FREE! It’s MUCH easier to grow your own organic matter in the soil than it is to buy it and HAUL it. Let nature do the work for you. Remember, we want to work WITH her not AGAINST her. She can be a great friend and helpmate or a cruel bitch on an enemy. Kind of like… well you know.
Okay, back to the original question, “what hemp am I talking about?” That would be Sunn Hemp or for those who can actually READ Latin, (Crotalaria juncea L.).
These are some links to web sites advocating the growing of hemp, and just so everyone is clear, nowhere in these links will you find a reference to websites advocating the growing of the “other” hemp. So, just so I am CRYSTAL CLEAR, these are RESPECTABLE references with details about a valuable agricultural crop. Damn, no matter how I put this I just keeps getting deeper and deeper. Okay, here are the links.
This is a US government agency advocating the growing of hemp.
This is a link to a main stream agricultural magazine detailing the advantages of growing hemp.
And finally a link from the USDA, a gov’t agency that is always looking out for the American farmer. ;-)
Just to briefly summarize the benefits to growing hemp, they are, in no particular order:
1. Production of up to 200 pounds of organic nitrogen per acre every 60-90 days
2. Production of up to 6000 pounds of biomass per acre
3. Suppression of noxious weeds
4. Suppression of nematodes
5. Improved soil properties and water conservation
6. Reduced erosion and soil compaction
7. Has potential as a forage crop, paper fiber and as an alternative fuel
Who should use Sunn Hemp? Anyone who has soil that needs to be improved. The crop can be used by conventional as well as organic growers. Sunn Hemp ‘Tropic Sun’ works very well as a precursor crop for small grains (winter wheat/oats) or as a legume to restore soil fertility and to increase organic matter. Just think about it. You can turn 50# of seeds (15000 seeds per pound) into 6000 pounds of organic matter without having to pick up a shovel or use a wheelbarrow. And, as a BONUS, you get 200# of organic nitrogen, ready for plant uptake!
You can proudly proclaim that you are a producer of AMERICAN HEMP for both FUN as well as PROFIT!
Just be prepared by keeping copies of ALL seed receipts as well as copies of ALL gov’t recommendations to actually grow the variety of hemp I am advocating. I would not want you to be the victim of confused drug enforcement agents who don’t have the good sense to read useful and informative blogs such as this one.
All kidding aside, Sunn Hemp is a completely LEGAL plant, not even in the same family as Cannabis sativa L. commonly called marijuana or pot. No, Sunn Hemp has REAL value to farmers and gardeners in the south.
I proudly proclaim myself to be an advocate of growing American Hemp, but that’s just me, Michael LaBelle, “a man out standing in his field.” Just don’t tell the DEA WHICH field I am out standing in. I wouldn’t want them to find out where I am after this blog hits the net. :-)