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Clover Cover crop or Mulch or......? On mushroom compost.

 
Posts: 36
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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I’m putting in a garden area, and I’ve just finished primary construction of a small infiltration swale (thanks to everyone who provided advice on that project). My back is pleasantly sore. The resulting berms are primarily clay, but I’m going to top it with several inches of mushroom compost, the one off-site amendment I actually paid a bit for. It’s unclear that I’m going to have the budget remaining to plant all or most of what I want for this season, and I was thinking about planting crimson clover as a cover crop. I have a few pounds of it hanging around.

However, I do know from experience that seeds sometimes have a hard time germinating in mushroom compost from this source (I’ve never tried clover in it before), but healthy seedlings don’t have any issues. Can’t leave the soil bare, of course, and I don’t want to waste the clover by broadcasting it onto a soil where it might not germinate. In my arsenal is also a few piles of wood chips that I could use as mulch, but I’d rather not if I can get something green going. Plus I laboriously moved those chips down a hill for a different project, and I’d really hate to move them back up a hill. Permaculture isn’t  actually supposed to be a Sisyphean task, right?

This is in an urban space, and this planting is in the front of our house, so it needs to look at least somewhat presentable.
Any advice, anyone?

Thank you,
Daniel
 
garden master
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I think that spreading some of the clover seeds is worth a shot. Maybe enough of them will survive to stage a take over of the bare soil. I think maybe trading the excess of clover seeds with someone else for some other seeds might be another good option.
 
pollinator
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Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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I would get more wood chips if at all possible and lay them thick. The moisture wicking in from the retention swales will break them down fast. The only thing that grew in new hugels for me was solanacea, squash and iron clay cowpeas. One year in with heavy mulch you should be much more capable of a real garden. I'm trialing scarlet runner beans in some new clay soil hugels this year for weed suppression and mulch breakdown. I have had no success with crimson clover in deep mulch on the hugels. You aren't mulching deeply if you are paying for mushroom compost.

If you can't get chips, can you get moldy hay? Then your options are much better.
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Daniel, first thing to understand about mushroom compost that comes in bags is that it has been steam sterilized, there is no life in it, at all.
If you want this stuff to be a topping and plant into it, you are going to have to get some microorganisms installed first.
The option would be to use a garden fork and mix the compost with the present clay so that bacteria and fungi spores that settle from the air will be able to rapidly grow into colonies.
The other method would be to grow some microorganisms and install them (usually by spraying or just watering with the "soup").

You can grow these organisms either by bokashi, EM, or cooked grain gathering methods, then mix that (those) with the mushroom compost topping layer by spray or pour.

Once you have that done, plant your seeds, if you have a mix of seeds all the better but crimson clover is pretty awesome for building soil all by itself.

Redhawk
 
Daniel Ackerman
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Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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Thanks for the replies, all. I didn’t think about the compost being steam treated... that’s not a given though, since I didn’t buy it in bags, but rather had a truckload delivered. 7 yards, no half measures. It’s not intended to replace mulch, but rather jump start the project. We just don’t manage to generate enough compost here to start that many planting areas from scratch. Enough to maintain existing and future areas, though, which is good.

But to your point, Bryant, I think today I’ll call compost supplier and see if they steam sterilize anything. I kind of doubt it; they are right alongside a road I use regularly, and they just have mountains of stuff out in the elements. Still, with enough heat, it could be self sterilizing.

I was going back and forth with laying a few inches on top of the clay vs forking it in. I’ll definitely fork it in, and if I can manage to pull it off, I’ll make some kind of fungal soup. What was that post from a while back, a fungal bomb?

T.J., straw could probably be had, with a little effort. Wood chips are slightly harder.... my technique for acquiring them is to keep an ear out around the neighborhood for the distinctive sound of a tree crew, and I guess it isn’t tree trimming season right now. But that could change any day, I suppose. And straw is easier for the seedlings to pop their heads through.

So in the end, it’ll be an all-of-the-above approach. Dave, fingers crossed that the clover germinates in it. If it doesn’t, then I’ll try some of the other plants suggested.

Thanks again, everyone!
Daniel

 
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