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Need Suggestions for Overwinter Cover Crops: PNW

 
                                
Posts: 17
Location: Western Washington, USA
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First off, let me qualify myself as just starting down the permaculture path. As the title says, I'd appreciate some suggestions for a cover crop(s) that will overwinter until early spring. I live in Kitsap County in western WA. and have a 500sf area prepared. biointensive, ready to be sown that was previously sod in an area that we used to garden. I'd start some winter veggies but have too many other projects on my plate. I'd like to be able to just broadcast some seed and forget about it until next year, that includes no watering as our ample fall rains are just around the corner. My main objectives are weed suppression and maintaining soil tilth so that my efforts to prepare the area will not have been in vain. Will likely be following up with planting a variety of typical annual veggies. I have never cover cropped before. Hopefully I'm not asking for too much. Many thanks in advance.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Posts: 488
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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There is tons of info available on cover crops, I wouldn't know where to start. If you are doing biointensive, why not follow John Jeavons' advice?

As for me, I use hairy vetch, mostly because I read somewhere that tomatoes do well with a groundcover of hairy vetch. Unfortunately, because of weather, my toms were pretty much a complete bust. No amount of hairy vetch could have saved them!

 
                        
Posts: 66
Location: San Diego
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I highly recommend red clover because it is such a great food crop for my rabbits. It doesn't do well in San Diego Summers but it can be harvested heavily for fresh feeding and dried for hay the rest of the year. When it starts to peter out in early Summer it is turned under. The root system is extensive so it adds a lot of humus to the soil even if allowed to just die off without turning. It also increases the biological activity from the nodules full of nitrogen fixing bacteria. To top it off the blossoms are favored by quite a few predators like small wasps.
 
Eric Thompson
Posts: 369
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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If you can find seeds for small-seed fava beans, they will do pretty well most winters -- easy to till in or just have an early harvest out of (i love fresh fava!)
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I have had good luck with either red, or crimson clovers here in King county over winter.
 
                                
Posts: 17
Location: Western Washington, USA
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Thanks for the responses, very much appreciated.

I have an early edition of Jeavons' book and surprisingly,  there is very little in it regarding cover crops.

I'd be sowing a crop but need fencing first, too many hungry critters out here.

I'll take the suggestions and see what's available locally. Probably try two or three and do a mini trial.
 
Jordan Lowery
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use a mix of plants, do not sow one type of plant.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Posts: 488
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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"I have an early edition of Jeavons' book and surprisingly,  there is very little in it regarding cover crops."

There's been a lot of updating since then!

Check out the website - http://growbiointensive.org/
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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For the free, online PDF version of "Managing Covercrops" by SARE, go here:

http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition

Scroll down to the "Free online version" link, and click it.  You can download/save the PDF.
 
                                
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I recently reclaimed some lawn for my new garden space and laid down my first cover crop. I really dont know that much at all about the subject  just what I have read. So with that and the advice of my local feed store. I chose winter rye, vetch and austrian peas. The winter rye is a good weed suppresser and green manure crop and will over winter. Vetch is a green manure crop. The peas are a nitrogen fixer and add a good amount of tilth to the soil. I sowed my cover crop on sep 3rd and now on oct 9th the rye and peas are 4 or so inches tall with the vetch about 2 inches tall. I am happy to report very little sign of weeds. I  also put down some straw that has started to compost and good helping of two year old horse manure. I also live in PNW. Hope this is a little help.
 
John Polk
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Hairy vetch is also a legume, and will add Nitrogen to your soil, both while growing, and, after it is plowed under/chopped-dropped.  It is an excellent over-winter crop in many areas...stop erosion and feed your soil at the same time.

 
Paul Cereghino
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Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Agree with FAVAS, CRIMSON CLOVER, FIELD PEAS, RYE (though its hard to work)
And with the suggestion to plant more than one... better weed supression and insurance to boot.
RYE can be a beast to work if not put to early crops.

Also consider:
POPPY - yes that kind, recommended by Solomon.. haven't started yet. supposed to have tap root and tolerate low nutrients and produce a protein crop in early summer.
CHICKWEED - weed, good cover, edible, weak rooted, good as natural supplement to seeded cover
MUSTARD family - wilder strains can work nice for sopping up nutrients and giving a yield sprouting broccoli, kale...

move fast... its getting late!  My crimson clover/fava/fieldpea mix just germinated in 3-5 days, but every day late might add another day of wait depending on what the weather does.
 
Beware the other head of science - it bites! Nibble on this message:
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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