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Jerusalem Artichoke (sunchoke) and Sweet Lupine Regenerative Cover Crop

 
Posts: 53
Location: Florissant, CO
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It's been awhile since I've posted on here... But I have an untested concept (as far as I know) I want to try and am looking for any experienced folks with sunchokes and sweet lupine. I live in Colorado at 8000 feet, I have 9 acres of   land to work with of mostly low-quality soil though it is well-drained and varies in quality throughout. I am looking for productive low-input ways to start building soil life and quality. I will be building dry-stacked raised beds for some of our production--we have plenty of rocks. But I am trying to come up with a system that I can implement on large portions of the land that will be low-work, semi-productive and bring the soil to a higher level of quality. So I thought about planting sunchokes and sweet lupines together as a cover crop. The sunchokes will help break up and improve the soil and the sweet lupine (legume) will add nitrogen. I've decided on these two because of their vigor, perennial nature, useful outputs, aesthetics and heavy biomass production. I understand that sunchokes can be aggressive, but this is precisely why I would like to use them. I will gladly pull useful tubers out of the ground over and over again if they are happy to grow up here.

What I am envisioning is planting the sunchokes and sweet lupine mixed together and let them grow thickly and unabated for at least a year or two. All that biomass from their vegetation would be chopped and dropped right in place. Mulch is a must in this dry-ish climate. Then I would come out in a rotational fashion and interplant crops in the midst of the sunchoke/lupine blend.

So as an example--If I had a 80 foot row of the established sunchoke/lupine blend that runs east to west, I would come out in the spring and harvest the roots from 4-foot stretches of the sunchoke/lupine blend every 20 feet. In that portion of the blend that I harvested I would plant other crops like squash, garlic, quinoa, beets, greens or whatever experimentation proves to favor. I would continue to chop and drop excess biomass from the blend and use it to mulch those other crops as well as directly underneath the blend. The following year I would harvest the roots and plant other crops from different 4-foot stretches of the blend . This way I wouldn't harvest sunchoke and replant it with other crops for at least 3 years from the same 4-foot section. Hypothetically this would allow for ongoing soil improvement and continuous yield. The stretches of sunchokes that were harvested would hopefully have enough time to recolonize the harvested patches before they are disturbed again. Please don't point out that plants don't need to grow in rows as I'm well aware of this fact, I'm describing it this way for simplification. I have a variety of techniques to provide additional hydration to these plants, but for this thought experiment, please assume that the lupine/sunchoke blend will receive enough water.

So my questions are...

1. Does this concept seem at all viable or am I missing a glaring element?

2. There are endless other plants I could put in this blend and I will experiment with many, but do the sunchoke and sweet lupine grow okay together? Has anyone had experience with them specifically as companions?

3. Does anyone know where to get good deals on bulk sunchoke tubers? I am looking to obtain a sizable amount for this experiment but seem to find them for around $10/pound and I would like to kick this trial out with at least 50 pounds and the online prices are a little steep for my budget. Of course I will just try it on a smaller scale if need be, but I want to try this in a variety of conditions on my homestead and I can learn so much more with a good  variety of trial plots.


Thanks for any thoughts on this and happy growing!

 
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I'm not sure anything will grow among a stand of sunchokes, so the lupin might not make it
I know more about the sunchokes,  so I will speak mostly about them.
I would start asap with whatever amount suits your budget, because one year in the ground will multiply your investment.
Dig them up and use them them to populate the next patch.
I have never harvested enough tubers from a patch to prevent it's full return the next season,so I don't think you will lose ground.
After a year to establish themselves, I would harvest the sunchokes often.
I think the green stalks have more  nutrients than the dried ones,  so I chop mine repeatedly throughout the growing season.
I probably would harvest the sunchokes and lupin biomass and apply it to an adjacent plot.
Both species already store nutrients underground, they don't need to be fed and you won't have to try to clear your veg planting beds of tubers.


 
pollinator
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Danny,

I think your plan is ambitious.  Good for you.  I had not thought about using sunchockes in this fashion, but why not?  Out of curiosity, how do you plan on getting all of those tubers out of the ground?  If what William says is correct, you may have a fantastic cover crop—for making more sunchockes!!  

Again, thinking about what William was saying about the aggressive nature of the sunchockes, might you also plant some hairy vetch?  It also is aggressive and might compete better with your sunchockes.  And then what a mighty combination you would have!  Both aggressive nitrogen fixers and nitrogen “sponges” as I like to call them.

In the end, how do you plan to kill off your cover crop once you have thoroughly conditioned your soil?  I am assuming that you do.  Using the Gabe Brown approach, one might think of planting something that is very cold sensitive so that winter kills the crop completely.  The thought I am considering is crimson clover for the N fixer and tiller radishes for the N “sponge.”  This is merely my idea and yours might well be better in your area.

Overall, I give you a thumbs up for your plan.  Plenty of root growth for adding carbon to the soil and plenty of top growth for a soil cover sound like a great combination.

Good luck and let us know how things work out.

Eric
 
Danny Smithers
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Vetch was on list to try out with the blend, I'll definitely give that a go. I was planning on pulling out tubers in small patches so I could plant other crops. I of course would miss some of those tubers and could hand pick any remainders in those patches as they put up stems. If the sunchokes don't require mulch I have endless places to use that foilage as mulch as mulch so that would be a nice bonus. If the sunchokes overtake the lupine too much I can thin their tubers if need be. Biomass is my main focus so there is no way I can get too much. My other experiment is planting productive crops on the south edge of the sunchokes for hail protection. We get intense and heavy sun, but hail storms come around and im thinking the overgrown sunchoke stems can help protect some from the hail. I will definitely try this in any amount I can afford. If the sunchokes grow as agressively as everyone thinks up here, I will be exstatic.
 
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I like your idea but as others have either said or eluded to, sunchokes are not going to go away once they are established in an area, think Bermuda grass for a comparison of their tenacity and staying power.

If you like to eat sunchokes, then that won't be a problem when you get ready to plant your vegetables (or if you plan on planting vegetables).

I use sweet and field peas, alfalfa, rape, crimson and yellow clover, annual rye grass, buckwheat and hairy vetch for my starting out a field cover crop.
I use a broadcast spreader and make crossing passes with it for heavy coverage of seeds. (I just mix the seeds in the hopper and start walking)
 
Eric Hanson
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Redhawk,

Thanks very much for giving us all a detailed seedcrop mix.  Just out of curiosity, can you tell us why/how you got that particular seed mix?  I generally get the ideas of nitrogen fixers and nitrogen sponges, but what are the particulars of that combination?  I know nature loves diversity so I certainly see that in your mix.  

Thanks for commenting on this thread,

Eric
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I use a combination of deep rooting, nitrogen fixing, and mulching plants.
The deep rooters are the alfalfa and the rape, when these are chopped and dropped they not only cover the soil with mulch but they also rot, leaving deeply set organic matter (these are also bacteria and fungi attractors).
The two pea varieties fix nitrogen as do the clovers but the clovers are also good forage for the wild animals who come and feast, leaving their manure and urine behind which adds N to the soil for plants to utilize.
The buckwheat and vetch make a lot of mulch when the chop and drop happens and they also attract the pollinators and again the animals feast and leave behind their contributions to the soil biology and nutrient base.
If you have compacted soils, rape does a better job of loosening that than daikon the first year, after that first year there is enough soil texture to support deep penetrating daikon for even better breakup of the compaction.

My wife and I don't particularly like the texture of sunchokes so we don't use those anywhere but I do think that if they are viable to you as a food supply, use them.
The rape is loved by deer and we can pull and use some for hog feed if we need to, and it is a nutrient sponge, which is why I choose that for my deep rooting crop, they also rot fast once you cut the tops off.

I try to make my seed mix equal parts so that not only is there a lot of diversity but it is spread fairly evenly over the whole area I am working on.
The current pasture I'm making doesn't even need anything extra, unless I feel the need to add more grasses for the donkey to munch on.
The annual rye grass does fine for wintering feed and I use about 100 lbs. of seed per acre to keep a pasture green.

Redhawk
 
Eric Hanson
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Redhawk,

That is an incredibly informative and useful post.  I am truly pleased to read it.  I am flirting with the idea of starting a new bed and up to this point I could only think of a 2-plant mixture—crimson clover and tiller radish.  This gives me a LOT more to think about.  This is like a recipe for cover crops.  You seem to have a vast amount of apples and pie slices so I don’t know what giving you more of those means to you, so I guess for now I will simply say with great earnestness Thank You for this wonderful post.

Eric
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You are most welcome Eric. If you haven't read them, check out my soil threads, you might find them helpful on your journey.

the soil threads
 
Eric Hanson
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Redhawk,

Yep, I have read them.  They are highly instructive and I am learning a lot from them.  I just have not seen a good cover crop seed mix along with a reason for each individual component until your recent post.  It’s great.

Eric
 
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Eric and Dr Redhawk,

It is funny how similar the mixes tend to be,kind of regressing to the mean. I also found that daikons really didn't do squat the first year or two. The compacted soil just meant they grew up above the ground. It looked ridiculous. I have kind of the same schema, and I like to mix at least two of each type because I have no idea what the climate will be up to during their season. Sometimes the decision is made by what is cheap! I didn't score food plot mixes this year, but that can be a good mix if you get them dirt cheap. If I use a seed for one purpose, I don't count it for another.

Drillers:
sweetclover (also N-fixer)
rape
sunflower
buckwheat
chicory

Fillers (underground degraders/sponges)- generally winter/spring crops
turnip
beet
daikon

Biomass/summer shade/chix fodder:
sunflower
grains (often either a birdseed mix or hunting plot mix, dirt cheap) often millet and sorghum which is comical out there
flax
sunn hemp (also a n-fixer) the most expensive thing I put down, but gracious it goes crazy!


N-fixer:
clover especially crimson first year or two- then red or landino- best here as a winter/spring crop
sweetclover
alyceclover- which has reseeded- was in a food plot bag,I collect seeds
winterpeas (in winter)
cowpeas (in summer)
hairy vetch


Most of these are also good for the wildlife. The deer are a nuisance with the clovers and winter oats and chicory, so it is really hard to start stuff in the winter. They don't like vetch much, so I am moving more to that.

Over the course of 2-3 years it seems like I'm at 90% perennials from severely degraded fields. In Colorado from the OP's perspective, I would think it will take much longer, but it is doable. There are other plants that might surprise you. I like sanfoin and alfalfa in basic dry soils for long-term n-fixation. Neither do well here. Pigeonpea might be a good annual for the first few years. Gabe Brown says keep armor on the soil! Sounds right.









 
Danny Smithers
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Thank you so much for the informative soil building suggestions. I've definitely considered many of these. I found it very helpful to have the soil building plants divided up into "Drillers" "Fillers" and "Biomass" it really helps me get my head around what I'm trying to do. I"ll go through all of the plants put forward and add my thoughts, and add a bit of needed clarification about my goal.

I may not have made it totally clear in my initial post,  but within the cover mix I really wanted it to be something that I can plant and walk away from so that I'm still obtaining yield and building soil even if I don't have time to get to a particular portion on on any given year. I frankly have only eaten sunchokes once and they were good, there are a variety of sunchoke preparation strategies that I think I would enjoy. But from a yield perspective they don't seem to be that prolific for online purchasing and I figured I could sell them by the pound online for growing or eating. The lowest I found was $10/pound online and selling them seems like a good option for bringing in some funding for my family and projects--they also seem to sell out later in the season so people are buying them. My precipitation varies greatly from year to year so I am hoping to plant a perennial cover that can handle the drier times as well. The sunchokes are drought tolerant and the lupine has a taproot and is also drought tolerant--plus it also produces an edible lupin bean for animals or people. I got into the lupine idea because of research I found about lupines being grown in rotation with quinoa: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3673854?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. I eventually plan to grow a lot of quinoa because it is well suited for our climate and thought this cover mix would be a good buildup for the eventual quinoa patches.

I'm just going to run through all the perennial ideas that were mentioned and briefly give you my thoughts on them.There are numerous great ideas on this thread for cover crop mixes but I am really focused on the perennial factor and so I won't mention the annuals. I may end up using annuals, but I'm trying to avoid it for this particular system.

Vetch: If the lupine isn't aggressive enough to compete with the sunchokes, this seems like a great second option. It doesn't produce an edible yield like the lupin and subjectively doesn't look as nice, but I do plan on using the lupine flowers as a cut flower income yield as well (I forgot to mention that in my initial post).

Alfalfa: I've considered alfalfa as it is an amazing soil builder, but I had it in my head that it was a heavy water user. But my head was wrong because after looking into that  I'm realizing that it can tolerate dry conditions. I will definitely experiment with it in this blend. I have chickens and will have goats so it could be a very productive output. I will have to compare it to the potential yield of the lupine, but this is definitely back on my list of trial cover blends.

Clover: It doesn't quite produce the biomass that I'm looking for, but will still be worth experimenting with on the outskirts of the trial patches to enliven the soil around those areas.

Roots--Daikon/Turnip etc.: I may end up using these with the rape for the first year or two if it seems like I need to. I'll probably do a variety of annuals in the beginning but I really wanted to focus on those crops that would have staying power over the long term so if I set it and forget it, they keep building soil and biomass. After I establish, I want the main plants to keep doing their thing if I'm not able to get to them in a particular year.

Thanks again for all the great info! As I go through this process I'll keep posting updates and progress on this thread so everyone can see how it turns out if you are interested.





 
Eric Hanson
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Danny,

If I could suggest one other category to your mix it would be the nitrogen fixers.  Add that category and you have a nice template of sorts by which to make a basic cover crop mix

Eric
 
Danny Smithers
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So this idea is evolving a bit as I go but I'll update the process. I've ordered a couple pounds of sunchokes and have a pound of sweet lupine seed. I decided to attempt this in a small Swale to start.  I dug the 2 foot wide ditch on contour. Im going to put the sunchokes and the lupine seed at the bottom of the Swale l
Im then going to fill that with about 6 inches of straw. And as you do with straw bale gardening, im going to add some blood meal on top and water it in to get it composting. With the small amount im using it won't get hot enough to cook the seed. The lupine and sunchokes can get then get ahold of the native soilt while enjoying the straw bale benefits to really get established. I understand sunchokes do well in straw. The Swale will fill up with biomass and ultimately turn into a more absorbent terrace over the years filled with well-structured soil. From these "fertility strips" I can use the biomass from The sun chokes and lupine to build more soil outward from the strips.

Notes:

-Even if the Swale fills up completely, it will dry out relatively quickly in our climate. And I have plans to plant out the berm side as well, but for this thread I want to stay focused on the lupine sunchoke companionship  so please don't remind me that a Swale is a tree system... It catches and spreads water which I believe works in a variety of situations. Not just tree situations.

-Im going to try planting the berm with lupine and the bottom of the Swale with sunchokes on some portions of the experiment. With the lupines deep Taproot I think it could help recirculate some of that water lens built by the Swale.

-instead of harvesting sunchokes to plant out beds, I'll also just drop cardbaord  on top of the sunchokes nd cut holes to plant into. This would really help utilize the sunchokes rhizome as biomass. I think innoculating underneath the cardboard with wine cap mushrooms could turn those roots into another type of yield as well.

I'll post pics and updates when I get planting. The sunchokes are in the mail. Any thoughts or concerns are always welcome.
 
Eric Hanson
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Danny,

Clearly your plans for your land are evolving and it looks like you are planning on really concentrating on a particular part of your land for more intensive "cultivation."  Good.  9 acres is a lot of land to work all at once.  Although I can't actually see your land, your plan appears sound.  I agree that bringing in the biomass and digging the ditch can really help out your gardening area.  I think that the straw will have a wonderful effect on your soil.  I love your idea of using wine caps to help ad biological fertility to your new soil.  I spread wine cap spawn just a bit over a year ago (4/10/18) and while the spawn has clearly grown and decomposed a large volume of woodchips, I have not really had that many mushrooms.  I am just now seeing my first real flush of Wine Cap mushrooms.  I think the reason for this is that the surface of the chip-bed did not have enough protection from sunlight and wind and thus the surface tended to dry out.  This is OK for me as the mushrooms were really a secondary concern, with the mushroom compost being primary.  I plan on expanding my woodchip garden plots this year and will add in more wine caps and both spread them in higher concentrations and try to keep the top layer of chips more moist.

The only possible downside I see to your plan is that I will point out is that while straw, woodchips, etc. are wonderful for your soil, their improvement is something most profound over time.  The first year I gardened with woodchips I had to dig fertile holes in them in order to get any real crops.  This was OK for me as I was looking to the long run and my conversion to an ever-more Permie style garden is a long process and not a singular event.  So I suspect it will be for you.  If you are patient, and I think you are, then waiting should not be a big problem.  I don't know haw far a couple pounds of sunchokes and a pound of lupine seed go, but it sounds like you are only really focusing on a small portion of your total land.  I might suggest that you consider planting a cover crop over the remaining acreage if for nothing else to stabilize and condition the soil and provide some valuable plant matter to use as mulch or compost.

Your idea of digging the ditch is an ambitious one.  Please do send pictures and keep us updated.  I would love to see how the project develops!


Good job and Best of luck,

Eric
 
Danny Smithers
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Thanks for the thoughts Eric. If I had the resources I would go much larger with the experiment. But it looks like about a swales worth of planting g is what I can try out this year. Ill dig swales all day long, but I don't want to expose all that soil before I have something to plant in it. I may just try a blend of other cover crop seedmixes throughout our land that see what might take with our water situation using the list above. I definitely see your point with the straw slowly building but I'm kinda hoping if I kick in the composting process with some blood meal, I'll be able to get a quicker return. The wine cap experiment will have to wait a couple years for the for the chokes to establish. But if that works it may also be a great regenerative rotational perennial/mushroom system.

I essentially have plans to build soil wherever I can and the strongest growing areas will become home to future food forest planting while the "fertility strips" will be mixed with annual production among the various food forest planting. It's a vision that blends forest gardening with food forests throughout the property.

I also have flattish rock outcroppings that I want to experiment with by jackhammering wicking beds into those outcroppings... Going for the holy Grail of a garden bed that has enough surfacewater catchment and retainment to never water in the Rocky mountains. But that will be for another post. I'll have the jackhammer soon to try that one out. If it works it could really be a game changer for us arid rockdwellers.

Pictures to come later this week or perhaps the next.

Thanks again!
 
Eric Hanson
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Danny,

I am certain that adding blood meal to all that straw will accelerate the decomposition.  Personally I am a fan of blood meal as a source of nitrogen in the garden, particularly for my heavy feeders.  I find it to be a quick acting yet moderately long lived nitrogenous fertilizer.  Don’t forget coffee grounds as they are great sources of nitrogen also.

Last point, can you get some legumes growing?  At present I have some peas growing in my chip bed, party to add in nitrogen through their roots, and later to add as chop and drop.

These are just a few thoughts I have.  I think you have some great workings already and a good plan.  Please keep us updated as to your progress.

Eric
 
Danny Smithers
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Lupine is a legume actually, that's why I chose it as part of this part of this mix. I'm hoping it'll be enough for the nitrogen fixation. But I'll be trying a few different mixes as well. I'm trying to do everything as simply as possible to create a perennial regenerative mix. I'm thinking the biomass of the sunchokes above and below with the lupines nitrogen will do it.
 
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The idea behind a cover crop, is that you can grow the cover crop, easily kill it, and then plant something else. Based on that definition of cover crop, sunroots are totally unsuitable for use as a cover crop, because they are extremely tenacious and hard to eradicate. At one time, 1/10th of an acre of my main field was unusable due to sunroot weeds.

My experience has been that "sweet lupine" is a misnomer. What I grew were extremely bitter, unpalatable, and difficult to process into an edible product. And they were an annual.  
 
Danny Smithers
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PerhAps cover crop is not the best term for this then. You can read the beginning of this thread to see how I plan to work within the sunchoke roots. I plan to  harvest patches of the sunchokes on a rotational basis and then plant annuals in to those harvested patches...  And then let thet the sunchokes and lupine move back in. Or potentially drop cardboard on top of some patches of the sunchokes, cut holes in the cardboard and plant into those holes. My hope is to have an ongoing perennial soil building combination that also produces a yield. I understand they are agressively and tough to get rid d of completely, but that's not what I'm intending to do. I want agressive, that's why I chose them. I'll be restricting their growth with wide pathways so if they are too much to deal with, I've got a barrier.

Lupines are considered a short-lived perennial, based on what I've read. I'm sure various factors could gave caused them not to return in your case. As for the flavor, I'll find out. Some lupines are bitter and toxic while some are not. Hopefully the seeds I got were actually sweet ones as advertised. But maybe not.
 
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While I haven't actually tried this on my patches of Jerusalem artichokes I've heard that aren't actually that hard to control or get rid of if you stop to consider their life cycle.  If you are trying to eliminate them by collecting all the tubers at the end of a season, good luck!!  That will likely not work.  I have gone through and pretty aggressively harvested all the tubers I could find in an area, yet come spring the plants are shooting up as though I hadn't harvested it seems.

From what I can tell it's the tubers that provide the nourishment to get the plants vigorously growing to out compete other things.  Apparently if you let them grow initially to exhaust the fuel from the stored tuber you can then simply pull up the plants and that takes care of it.  They haven't yet formed new tubers to start growing from again the next year.  I'm guessing that instead of pulling up all the plants, which could be a huge chore on a large area, you could simply mow or scythe them all down, and keep them cut down the rest of the year so they never get a chance to form tubers in the fall.  I'm pretty sure this would work since my main patch is right on the border with my neighbor.  I don't mow that section and let everything grow as it will.  My neighbor keeps their acreage constantly mowed like a lawn.  I don't see the sunchokes growing in the mowed zone despite them being thick and healthy inches away.  Now I have dug them up and found tubers naturally edging into the mowed section, but they only go so far because the plants can't get established to grow and reach out their tubers from a new spot.  They can only reach so far in from our property/mowed line.
 
Danny Smithers
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That's sounds like a great technique to try as well. I'll definitely give that a go as part of the experiment. Thanks David
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Sunroots are super aggressive plants in my garden. They grow 12 feet tall. The places where sunroot weeds grow on my farm might have shoots every couple of inches in a vast radius. They create dense shading. And that is after digging the tubers the previous fall, and a number of attempts at weeding. Rotating between sunroots and annuals is simply not an option in my garden. The sunroots are much too aggressive to work in any sort of rotational cropping system on my farm. These days, I only grow sunroots in a dedicated bed. It's too difficult to try to eradicate them from rotational cropping systems.

You could test the lupine seeds today. Pop a seed into your mouth and suck/chew. How long does it take before you have to spit it out in disgust?
 
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David Huang wrote:While I haven't actually tried this on my patches of Jerusalem artichokes I've heard that aren't actually that hard to control or get rid of if you stop to consider their life cycle.
Apparently if you let them grow initially to exhaust the fuel from the stored tuber you can then simply pull up the plants and that takes care of it.



Mine grow into the pathways around their beds every year. I usually let them get a few feet tall before I pull them up and use them as mulch in those pathways. An action hoe works well if you want to cut them off early while they're small.
Not super aggressive, just 100% resilient. I've never replanted a single tuber.
 
Danny Smithers
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This response was for joseph mostly, Jordan must have posted while I was typing. But that is great info, thanks jordan

Ya I suppose I could cook some of the seeds to try them out. Even if that is not an option, I still can use them as a cut flower yield as I mentioned above.  If I could get that type of sunchoke agression in my mountain soil with 12 ft bionmass, that would be great. The bimass is needed all over. I never plan to eradicate them, just thin them to plant into those patches (which are only about 2 feet wide). After a year of planting, I would let the sunchokes take over the patch again with the tubers I will definitely miss.
  Depending on the solar aspect of the contours on which I plant them I'll plant either shade crops or full sun crops. I'm definitely keeping the shade they will cast in mind. Plus if I cut them half way through the season if they are too unwieldy, I score more biomass mulch to spread around.

Are you saying that if I harvest a 10'x2' patch of tubers in a given spring, that I would be unable to plant in that space? After one year of planting annuals there, I would plan to let the tubers take back over. Is this not possible in your opinion? My soil is very shallow and lacking in needed structure so I'm guessing it will not be as unruly as it is in your garden, this is montane ponderosa pine ecosystem at 8400 feet above sea level with 6"-2' of soil on top of rock mostly. Frankly if any useful plant grew really agressively up here, I would consider it a big win. But I do plan to contain it between 6' wide paths in case that's a possibility.

I know I would miss some, but that's part of the plan. I see your point, but much of what you said is why I want to use this plant. It doesn't seem like it would be an impossibility. Is that what you are saying?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm intending to say that putting sunroots into any sort of rotational cropping system is not viable in my garden. The sunroots are too tenacious and grow too vigorously for any annual species to co-exist with them the next year. Even after years of trying to eradicate the sunroots.

I maintain an 8 foot wide buffer zone around the sunroots, which is tilled regularly. It is insufficient to keep them from spreading. I only know my own garden, and my own ecosystem. Give it a try. You'll know after two growing seasons whether or not sunroots are a good rotational cover crop for your area.

In my experience, trying to collect all the sunroot tubers from a patch is like throwing sand into the garden, and trying to collect each grain.

I could use the sunroots as a source of bio-matter, by chopping off the plants and moving the foliage somewhere else. I'd want to be careful to not be moving the tubers, or seeds.

You'd only have to taste one raw lupine seed, to know whether or not it is "sweet". Cooking doesn't destroy the bitterness, so cooking would be fine too.




 
David Huang
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Danny Smithers wrote:

Are you saying that if I harvest a 10'x2' patch of tubers in a given spring, that I would be unable to plant in that space? After one year of planting annuals there, I would plan to let the tubers take back over. Is this not possible in your opinion? My soil is very shallow and lacking in needed structure so I'm guessing it will not be as unruly as it is in your garden, this is montane ponderosa pine ecosystem at 8400 feet above sea level with 6"-2' of soil on top of rock mostly. Frankly if any useful plant grew really agressively up here, I would consider it a big win. But I do plan to contain it between 6' wide paths in case that's a possibility.

I know I would miss some, but that's part of the plan. I see your point, but much of what you said is why I want to use this plant. It doesn't seem like it would be an impossibility. Is that what you are saying?



For my 2 cents on this, if they grow anywhere near as well as they grow at my place with absolutely zero attention I think you might find it a challenge to grow annuals in the patch that year after a spring harvest of the tubers.  The ones you miss will be coming up that year and could very well take over the space.  If you plan to aggressively "weed" them out that season you have annuals planted then it might work.  It's not like they are hard to spot or pull up once growing.  I don't think you will be able to just harvest the tubers and expect the bed to be good for annual planting though.  

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about I'll attach a photo of a bed I grow them in.  Last spring I completely dug through this bed harvesting all the tubers I found other than very tiny ones which I left.  Then I did nothing at all to the bed.  All the long dead stalks you see are from the plants that grew last year from the tubers that remained after my harvest.  It might have been a bit better if I had pulled out all the tiny tubers I saw too, but I wouldn't expect it to have changed much.
DSC03945.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC03945.JPG]
Jerusalem artichoke bed after harvesting the previous spring with NO deliberate replanting.
 
Danny Smithers
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I definitely appreciate the thoughts. Ill let you know how the process goes. It'll be a few years in the making anyway. The "lupinis" I'll have to see about, but I know they are popular in italy, so if I don't dig 'em hopefully I can find a market for them.

Planting soon.
Thanks all
 
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I grow three varieties of Sunchokes on a 1 1/2 in-town lot in west-central Pa. That's not a lot of room, but we produce more than enough for my wife and I. The one variety grows to 12' tall with carrot shaped and sized roots making them easy to clean, but those tops! It's like a bamboo thicket with stalks up to 1 1/2 inches through. They take forever to mulch whole. The other two varieties grow anywhere from 5' to 7', one with tan knobby tubers, the other with red slightly knobby tubers. Also, mine are east coast varieties which do not seed. They only spread by root.
Once you've got them in the ground, unless your locale isn't suitable for them, you got them for the duration! To get rid of them some smother them under cardboard or carpet and mulch. Some just mow over them close and often until the roots are exhausted. This takes at least two years or better, depending on how healthy the tubers are. Just to give another example, we used to have a patch on the farm I grew up on. My parents weren't impressed with 'those things' but I loved hitting the patch in the fall and spring just for bowls full of raw ones. Dad set up a pig pen over the patch for a year, then moved the pen. The following year a few came back up and the patch got restarted. If pigs can miss a few, they hide very well in the soil. Back to the ones I grow now. I pull the stalks after they die in the fall, pull any tubers that come with and put the stalks through a small chipper. Waiting until the stalks die allows all the energy to move into the roots. I scatter the chips over the patches and as I dig for more roots I turn the chips under and mix them in. That loosens the soil and builds it very well. I've been growing and spreading mine for about 6 years and our clay soil is building super well. I dig with a garden fork. I guess for those who grow large patches they use modified potato pickers. If you decide to mulch the stalks elsewhere, be aware and beware, any piece of root will spread the chokes to the mulch area.
We can most of ours, we also harvest most of ours in the fall before frost. The roots are full of a fiber called Inulin - not inSulin - that can be quite gassy for some folks, but Inulin is a gut healthy prebiotic. If the effects of the Inulin are too much for you, harvest in the spring after a long winter freeze. The Inulin converts to fructose making them super sweet and the gas issue is gone. We can them as plain potatoes, pickles and relishes. I prefer them over cukes!
I made wine from flowers and tuber broth. The tuber broth wine was stout, quite a bit much for a drinking wine, but it made a great cooking wine. The flower broth wine was much better. I like it plain or blended with other wines. It gives a nice earthy flavor to other wines. I didn't add citrus or anything else to either broth, just sugar and a few raisins for natural yeast.
 
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