Alfalfa - Kelp of The Land
Alfalfa is another one of natures gifts providing for animals and people. Alfalfa is also called Lucerne in most places outside of north America and is cultivated for a multitude of uses from grazing animal feed, hay, mulch, cover crop and green manure. Alfalfa is a perennial that closely resembles clover until the plant is more mature. It grows 1 - 3 feet tall and is native to warmer temperate climates. Alfalfa has been used since the ancient Greek and Roman Era’s.
Growing Alafia is great for many reasons its a great food source for animals and people. Alfalfa sprouts are a great microgreen if your into microgreens.
Its a great cover crop for planting in-between crops to keep that soil alive by pumping plant exudates into the ground as well as feeding local wildlife like rabbits. Alfalfa is a nitrogen Fixing crop using Rhizobium nodules. Bringing down cost of fertilizer by fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil so you don’t have to apply as much or any fertizler when you have a complete permaculture system.
Then when you chop the cover crop it can be bailed up for storage for grazing animals during the winter months as well mulch.
We can’t forget its also great at feeding the soil when top dressed as meal or mulch. Especially in the winter months for those who get freezing temps it can help protect your soil with a decent layer of mulch.
Alfalfa much like kelp is a rich source of proteins, minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium, organic silicon, manganese), vitamins (C, K, D, E, U, provitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid/B9, biotin, niacin), as well as β-carotene and eight essential amino acids (alanine, lysine, arginine, histidine, cysteine, proline, methionine, tyrosine).
Alfalfa normally has a NPK ratio of 3-1-2 a bit more or less depending on where it was grown and brand. So it has a little of everything but more Nitrogen great for young plants.
One of the most talked about properties of alfalfa is triacontanol which is a natural plant growth hormone. Which increases a plants effectiveness to photosynthesize and promotes roots and shoots. So alfalfa is great to use during the vegetative growth period with its high nitrogen content and natural plant growth hormones and trace minerals.
Compost activator/accelerator - it having a high nitrogen content can help compost piles get going if they are decomposing a little slow.
Top dressing - You can top dress or directly mix into your soil and is in many dry amendment blends.
Teas - add it to your compost teas but don’t add too much a little goes a long way 1/4 cup per 5 gallon batch of tea. You can also make a tea of just alfalfa but letting 1/4 cup soak in a 5 gallon bucket for a day or two just stir once in a while.
seed spout tea - seed spout teas are great and contain tons of enzymes and natural growth hormones.
Ferments - you can ferment it by its-self or with a few other plants to make a balanced plant tonic
Resources: Apostol, Livia & Iorga, Sorin & Mosoiu, Claudia & Racovita, Radu & Niculae, Oana & Vlasceanu, Gabriela. (2017). ALFALFA CONCENTRATE – A RICH SOURCE OF NUTRIENTS FOR USE IN FOOD PRODUCTS. Agriculture & Food. 5. 66-73.