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anyone using permanent cover crops?

 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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So Ive found the value in cover crops and I use them all the time. Fortunately I have access to free seed for this adventure. But I got thinking that what if I didn't have this resource to constantly seed every year, what are the perennial cover crops? I have used alfalfa on paths and around certain things like trees. I know clover is a good one, but are there others that are successful in zone 6? What are things to consider for using them?

My thought was to broadcast alfalfa and/or clover in the spring, get a blanket of green that can be mowed down etc. This is for a food forest/mixed veggie/perrennial growing area. Riight now I have weeds that grow, and I let me chickens in this area to eat the greens when annuals arent growing.

I guess what IM asking is what kind of practical wisdom is there for this type of system? Any pitfalls I should know about and what are best practices. Thanks for any help!
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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No one is using perennial cover crops?
 
deano Martin
Posts: 25
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I am using wild white clover, and chicory. The two haved different root systems, are edible, and good bee forage. The chicory is effective against intestinal worms, but will be killed off if grazed to low/frequntly. I allow chickweed to grow, which it does all on it's own.
I also use crimson and persian clover, which are annuals, but should self seed.
Hope that helps
Deano
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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That is helpful. Do these cover crops occupy the same space as a food forest or a mixed vegetable garden? I let my chickens out into these areas to clean up and graze, so I think that the clover will stand up to them. Do you mow it at all for green manure?
 
deano Martin
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My Food Forest is an acre in size, newly planted, and with the grass still intact. I am sowing chicory, and planting mints into areas mulched with grass, cut with a scythe.
The plants that I mentioned earlier are in a vegetable garden, in which i'm experimenting with Bonfils grain growing as part of a standard vegetable rotation. Very early days still, but full of potential.
If you're interested, there is a bit more detail on my blog.
http://deanom.wordpress.com/
Wishing you well
Deano
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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I use alfalfa, red clover, yarrow, comfrey, etc. in my beds, if you call that a cover crop.  When I want more light on my other crops I cut them back and use them as mulch, which also gives a boost of nitrogen into the soil for the N-fixers thanks to rhizodeposition.  When there isn't much else growing, I let them take over for a while.

Being perennials they don't seem to mind being given a complete haircut at times, as they grow back happily.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Hugh H. wrote:
I use alfalfa, red clover, yarrow, comfrey, etc. in my beds, if you call that a cover crop.  When I want more light on my other crops I cut them back and use them as mulch, which also gives a boost of nitrogen into the soil for the N-fixers thanks to rhizodeposition.  When there isn't much else growing, I let them take over for a while.

Being perennials they don't seem to mind being given a complete haircut at times, as they grow back happily.


Great info for me, thank you.

deanom wrote:
My Food Forest is an acre in size, newly planted, and with the grass still intact. I am sowing chicory, and planting mints into areas mulched with grass, cut with a scythe.
The plants that I mentioned earlier are in a vegetable garden, in which i'm experimenting with Bonfils grain growing as part of a standard vegetable rotation. Very early days still, but full of potential.
If you're interested, there is a bit more detail on my blog.
http://deanom.wordpress.com/
Wishing you well
Deano


I would love to check it out, thank you!
 
elisabet skyhawk
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Hugh...
did you choose red clover over white dutch or others for any particular reason? I am planting some clover soon and wondering if there is any difference... and why the others in the mix?.....i'm in the northwest...washington....elisabet
 
elisabet skyhawk
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deano Martin wrote:My Food Forest is an acre in size, newly planted, and with the grass still intact. I am sowing chicory, and planting mints into areas mulched with grass, cut with a scythe.
The plants that I mentioned earlier are in a vegetable garden, in which i'm experimenting with Bonfils grain growing as part of a standard vegetable rotation. Very early days still, but full of potential.
If you're interested, there is a bit more detail on my blog.
http://deanom.wordpress.com/
Wishing you well
Deano


deano..i am curious why are you using chickory (do you use the roots for food?) in your "cover crop mix?? and mints have always scared me when outside a container as they travel so easily and outgrow so much of the rest they are around....why did you choose mint in your mix?
looking forward to your answers...elisabet
 
John Polk
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A good (free) source about various cover crops can be downloaded here:

http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition
 
Eric Thompson
Posts: 369
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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elisabet skyhawk wrote:
did you choose red clover over white dutch or others for any particular reason? I am planting some clover soon and wondering if there is any difference... and why the others in the mix?.....i'm in the northwest...washington....elisabet


I can tell you in my case white clover stays much lower so it doesn't interfere with light as much. Also, it forms a thicker carpet - it slowly wins over grass where edges meet while red clover sends out long and sparse shoots. Chickweed forms a pretty good carpet too, but it climbs a little high most of the time.

I let the clover stay all year with anything more than 6" high (broccoli, cabbage, chard, cilantro...) and then try to seed ahead of it in spring (also in Washington..)

 
deano Martin
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Hi Elisabet.
The chicory is deep rooted, and will gather minerals from the subsoil, which will be made available whenever the top growth is cut. It is also easy to kill off, should I need to.
The forest garden is an acre in size. It can cover the whole space if it wants too. I don't need to I find that it is controlled well by pasture, and tight mowing.
Regards
Deano
 
David Miller
Posts: 280
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Red clover is the best N fixer, white the best clover mulch and alsike is perennial. Take your need and match your clover. For me I replace crimson clover because it likes my alkaline/soggy clay soil better.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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We have red clover growing all over, the chickens really love it so Im going to encourage it.I just dont want it to smother other crops so I think I will have to be careful how I plant new things.
 
Cal Burns
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I have what appears to be persian clover that volunteered and is growing all over my yard. I heard someone say that you can mow it every several weeks. Going to use the mower with the bag attachment to collect for compost.
Put in austrian winter pea and buckwheat in raised beds. Hoping that all this when chopped/mowed will help build up my alkaline soil and be great mulch.
 
Miel DuBois
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I've got annual rye on a big pile of dirt I plan to plant privacy bushes in. It is looking pretty good and working well in the Boston area. I'm exicited to turn it in march and get the fertilizer from the annual grass!
 
Peter Fishlock
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Jerusalem Artichoke are supposed to be a good ground cover.

It is a Herbacious Perrenial and is very hardy.

It can be used for the harvest of its tubers or cut for mulch. If you cut it and mulch it wil affect the tuber size. Pigs will eat the tubers straight from the ground aerating the soil at the same time. Anything other than a pig and its suggested to wash it first. I have never tried it but it is said that Jerusalem Artichoke can give you bad wind. I think some people use the small tubers boil em up and feed them to the chickens.

It might be worth looking into, I heard about them whilst watching a video on Sepp.

hope it helps.

 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Just to add a few:
Lupine - nitrogen fixer, nice flower, variety of species for different climates
French sorrel - big early season leaf production 1-2 cuts per year, tap root
Alder - I use Alnus rubra, nitrogen fixing tree, easy to grow, wood makes mushrooms, easy to kill as it doesn't stump sprout.
Wild Strawberry - I use Fragaria vesca, fills gaps.
Really... the list goes on and on and on. Learn what kind of vegetation is robust and strong in your naturalized ecology and start swapping species.

I think of them all in three or four traits - some plants have multiple...
Does is spread with rhizomes or stolons?
Does it fix nitrogen
Does it produce a bunch of early leaves that I can cut?
Can I get a human yield?
Does it make nice flowers for insects?
Does it need some bare ground to persist

I think of four kinds of patches...
Patches that I fuss over by placing mulch 1-2 a year and roughly weeding.
Patches that I hack to the ground 2-3 times a year for biomas
Patches that I prune once a year for mulch.
 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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Oregano.

Martin Crawford seeds oregano and mustard at the same time. When the mustard dies you have oregano covering. 2 Human yields plus I think oregano might have more staying capacity than clover. Here grass won out over clover in year 2-3 and I had to reset/resow clover. Oregano might be more of a forest garden technique where you have bushes and trees above the oregano. It does seem to expand quite nicely.

William
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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I know this is an old thread, but this is new information that might help.

http://rodaleinstitute.org/assets/SARE_BeyondBlackPlastic_20140401.pdf
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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andrew john wrote:Yes i am using perennial cover crops.

Andrew John

How about telling us more about what you are doing? Also, I strongly suggest you change the link in your profile since it makes your post look like spam, and it will be reported.
 
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