I have three gardens around 10'x20' each and last fall I planted a stand of crimson clover and winter wheat. I am interested in employing no-till/minimal til techniques by utilizing green mulch/manure. My question is do I need to "cut and turn under" the clover in the areas where I want to put my spring veggies (peppers/tomatoes/squash/pumpkins/corn/snap peas)? And from what I gave I can "mow/cut" the cover throughout the summer fall and add the cuttings to the plants as mulch? Is the clover a perenial? Will it self seed? When is the appropriate times/heights/growth stage to cut it and ensure reseeding? Thanks a bunch!
I won't have all the answers but i will try for some. I believe the crimson is perennial and white clover is the annual. I see people argue about whether to turn it under or not. You have that matter underground for a quicker nitrogen fix but i i think it'd be more effective cutting it down in the areas you are planting and using the cuttings as sort of a mulch for the new seedlings and give them a chance to grow ahead of the clover. Once they are established you would most likely be fine. I'm definitely done doing any tilling myself. They have some hand tools to loosen soil some to relieve compaction or even better do raised beds and never walk on it again. I have a smaller garden right now that i am going to try various other cover crops with clover. And i'm burying piles of wood that fall out of my trees to turn my whole garden to hugelkulture raised beds with clovers and anything else i can fit. In my area i have both clovers just come up in my yard anyway so i can harvest from them if i want to not mow at all. Check out Fukuoka's stuff. From what i understand you see the results of the clover after a couple years rather than immediate if you just keep it there and use it for living mulch.
Location: Lexington, Kentucky Zone 6
posted 8 years ago
Thanks for the input Matt...I'm going to do as you suggested and just cut down the clover in the immediate areas i am going to plant. Upon further research the crimson clover is annual (red/white/dutch) are all perenial. I will resist cutting the clover until after the seed has matured (approx. 30 days after pollination, so approximately 30 days after blooms appears). At that point I am going to cut the clover down to about 6 inches and leave the cuttings in the beds to aid in reseeded the clover and to provide more mulch for my veggies. I have seen the hugelkultures mentioned and need to do some more research. Converting my existing gardens to raised beds will be a task for next fall/winter...have to figure out how to maximize my space and keep my two doggies out! Thanks!!
posted 8 years ago
No problem, i will have to look more into clovers too to see what technically would be the best and find out where it was that i heard of the white being annual. Maybe depends on zone too. This year i'm just goin to chop and drop weeds that come up too. Except grass, i'd like to just not have grass at all in the garden. Purslane loves my garden when i used to till and it's an edible anyway. Some other plant too that gets very wide and stays on the ground, still have to figure out what that is. I love deans videos he makes for eattheweeds youtube videos. No sure if he really practices permaculture, but he just lets his yard do whatever and rides around eating weeds all over florida. I've learned of 12 edibles growing in my yard so far. Some taste good.
White clover is perennial. Medium red clover is also perennial though it normally runs out after 2-3 years. Large red clover is normally grown as a green manure crop. You can plant a winter grain--typically rye or wheat or spelt in the fall and then overseed it in late winter (march) and you can later take the grain as hay or grain and, once the grain is removed, your medium red or white clover will come on like gangbusters and set lots of nitrogen (it helps to inoculate your seed). You can grow the clover as hay or turn it under as another crop of green manure. I've had good luck growing crimson clover as an annual but it does die once it flowers. The seeds are considered "hard" which means that some will typically grow in subsequent years but I've never had it grow enough here--zone 6--to entirely self seed.
I just define my rows in the clover cover and leave the clover in the pathways, then next season I flip the rows and paths. The white dutch will reseed itself but I give it a little help in the areas I've used for planting. The clover crowds out any and all weeds and makes for a green and lovely garden all year round...and the deer love it in the fall and winter.
You will have to till it in the soil or else winter wheat and crimson clover will out-compete the veggies. I'm not sure about your climate, but here in humid cool climate it's very hard to establish veggies in cover crop. If you don't till i have to cut twice or more before veggies from seedlings are big enough. Sowing is even more work. Winter wheat is a grass basically, competition all over the place, crimson is also very dense and strong. I like to sow cover crops that don't over winter. For example potato field. When potato is harvested, buckwheat, sunflower, salad, mustard and others are sown. They make a great root and above ground mass before winter. In spring the field is prepared for planting, no additional work to be done, just planting. Above ground mass is mulch, roots start to rot over winter and in spring the process is accelerated, so no tilling, dying roots do the job. plenty of food for the plants also.
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