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 Cover crops for gardens?
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Author Book Ideas: Previous Topic Cover crops for gardens? Next Topic  

brightmeadow
True Blue Farmgirl

2038 Posts

Brenda
Ray Township Michigan
USA
2038 Posts

Posted - Aug 02 2013 :  6:35:59 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'd love to see a book chapter or magazine article on cover crops for all farmgirls, from those with small gardens to acre-sized plots. I see them recommended, but I can't seem to get the hang of planting them at the right time when or figure out the right economical quantity of seed to buy.

I think it would cut down on my weeding a lot if I understood the use of cover crops better.

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands - You shall be happy and it shall be well with you. -Psalm 128.2
Visit my blogs at http://brightmeadowfarms.blogspot.com (farming) http://brightmeadowknits.blogspot.com (knitting) or my homepage at http://home.earthlink.net/~brightmeadow

Edited by - brightmeadow on Aug 02 2013 6:36:33 PM

Ninibini
True Blue Farmgirl

7005 Posts

Nini
Pennsylvania
USA
7005 Posts

Posted - Aug 02 2013 :  8:36:24 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Brenda - I've been reading up on this lately and think it sounds fantastic! I would love to see an article on it as well! We want to try this ourselves this fall. I found valuable information about cover crops specifically beneficial to our area through our county extension's website as well as through Penn State Extension. You might be able to find specific information for your area, too, by checking similar websites where you live. :) Good luck! - Nini

Farmgirl Sister #1974

God gave us two hands... one to help ourselves, and one to help others!

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kysheeplady
True Blue Farmgirl

1291 Posts

Teri
KY
USA
1291 Posts

Posted - Aug 03 2013 :  04:14:47 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have always used a winter rye as a cover crop. Winter rye works great at holding the soil ... In KY. soil erosion is a big problem. I started using this in MA. about 20 years ago.

Teri
"There are black sheep in every flock"

www.whitesheepfarm.com
http://whitesheepfarm.wordpress.com/
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edlund33
True Blue Farmgirl

1326 Posts

Marilyn
Renton WA
USA
1326 Posts

Posted - Aug 03 2013 :  09:11:51 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've had good success with Red Clover. It builds up the nitrogen level in the soil plus it has beautiful red flowers which my bees love. I rotate my garden through four different plots. Since I don't use the plots I plant in cover crops for an entire season I don't typically have to worry about timing other than getting the seed down in the fall before the rainy season starts. I buy seed pre-coated with innoculant by the pound from our local horticultural supplier. I have also seen it for sale in small quantitites in several garden seed catalogs including Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

Cheers! ~ Marilyn

Farm Girl No. 1100

http://blueskyanddaisies.blogspot.com

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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chickpick
Farmgirl in Training

11 Posts

Stephanie
Ashville Ohio
USA
11 Posts

Posted - Apr 22 2015 :  6:30:18 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hello: I use winter rye for my cover crop in my garden. It works well. I also have a friend that uses radish for his cover crop. The radish crop works very well, but the downside is the smell. If you don't have neighbors too close by, use radish.

I suggest reading up on cover crops and soil management. A great theorist is Louis Bromfield. He has some very useful tips and ideas.

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Ninibini
True Blue Farmgirl

7005 Posts

Nini
Pennsylvania
USA
7005 Posts

Posted - Apr 23 2015 :  12:11:31 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi girls! We usually overwinter our garden with straw. Last year, we allowed it to grow to about 1 1/2 feet tall or so - maybe higher, then my hubby cut it down and turned it into the soil. About a month later, we planted seeds and seedlings. We had the most amazing garden ever! It grew super fast, produced like never before... it was amazing! NOBODY could get over what happened out there! I just thought I'd offer that up as an inexpensive, easy alternative for those of you with small gardens like me! This year, we've done a combination of compost covered with straw covered with a thick layer of wood chips... we'll see what happens! Happy gardening! - Nini

Farmgirl Sister #1974

God gave us two hands... one to help ourselves, and one to help others!


Edited by - Ninibini on Apr 23 2015 12:11:51 PM
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Marilyn Hartman Sullivan
True Blue Farmgirl

1134 Posts

Marilyn
Oxford PA
USA
1134 Posts

Posted - Apr 23 2015 :  12:48:57 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Nini -- I am going to show my ignorance -- what do I plant if I want to put in "straw" to overwinter??? We have a new garden this year, so not sure how it will produce. We are in Chester County, SE PA.

M

Farmgirl #6318
"Where there's a will -- there's probably a family fight."
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Ninibini
True Blue Farmgirl

7005 Posts

Nini
Pennsylvania
USA
7005 Posts

Posted - Apr 23 2015 :  1:21:07 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Marilyn!

Oh! Well, since we get so much heavy rain here near Pittsburgh, after pulling up our garden every fall, we lay straw all over our garden to protect it - about 4 to 6 inches thick. (Overwintering might not be the correct term, but that's what I meant by using it, I'm sorry for any confusion!) Then the following spring, we till the straw into the garden along with homemade compost (by hand - it's better for the soil). The straw decomposes a good bit over the winter, but it will continue to do so during planting and growing season. Where we live, the soil can become so muddy that it turns almost to a clay-like substance. The straw has really helped turn our soil into soft, crumbly, moist black gold. It took a couple of years for it to really do it's thing, but even in the first year we did it, the results were amazing; we saw a big difference in the soil quality.

Last year, though, I had read up quite a bit about green manure (basically growing a cover crop and then turning it into the soil). I wanted to do it, but life happens and I didn't get around to it. Plus, we have such a small lot, I didn't want to buy a whole lot of seed for our teeny tiny garden space (Since then, however, I've seen that we can buy smaller packets of seeds like buckwheat at Baker's Creek: www.rareseeds.org - you will want to do some research online as to which types of cover crops are recommended for your area.). When the straw we laid out the prior autumn started sprouting and growing green "grass," we decided to throw caution to the wind and see what would happen by letting it grow a bit, then cutting it down and tilling it into the soil. The green grass and the remaining yellow straw did wonders for our garden. It was an amazing fertilizer. I had been concerned as to whether or not the straw was "organic," but when I spoke with a local nursery, the owner told us basically that straw does not require chemical enhancement for growth, so it should be okay for our organic garden; that the "straw" in our area is usually a buckwheat or something like that (I can't remember what he said, exactly, but I was pretty surprised to learn it was the same grain recommended as a cover crop for our area!), and that it was fine to use it as a green manure the way we did. Works for me!

Hope this helps! If you have any other questions, I'm no expert, but I'm happy to try to answer! :)

Hugs -

Nini

Farmgirl Sister #1974

God gave us two hands... one to help ourselves, and one to help others!

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KhadijahL
Farmgirl at Heart

8 Posts

Khadijah
Missouri
USA
8 Posts

Posted - Apr 23 2015 :  8:02:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We've used buckwheat, red clover, and hairy vetch. They have all made a big difference in the state of our very, very clay-ey soil. I still haven't quite gotten the hang of the timing in planting them, but even with that, I've seen positive results. And the bees love them!!

Khadijah
Farmgirl #6334
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? -Mary Oliver
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chickpick
Farmgirl in Training

11 Posts

Stephanie
Ashville Ohio
USA
11 Posts

Posted - Apr 26 2015 :  6:10:04 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Khadijahl: Do you plant the vetch, buckwheat and clover as a mixture? Will the vetch get out of control? I love the winter rye, but I am ready to move out into other mixtures. I 've seen sunhemp, radish and other cover mixtures, but I am wondering about some unknown or exotic plants escaping. In the 1920-1930s, kudzu was "the" ground cover for erosion control in the south, but it got out of control. It is so important to turn all cover crops under completely.

I think it is a great topic for a chapter in a book or an in depth article in the magazine.
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