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To make raised beds or not, that is the question...

 
Posts: 67
Location: South Mississippi
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I have heard that "PLANTS DO BETTER IN RAISED BEDS",
then the more I looked into this the more I ask "IS THIS CORRECT?". Most will say that raised beds will heat up faster in the spring, though some will debate that. Others say it helps with water usage, BUT if my cropland drains well, except in the heaviest of rain ( 3"+ in under 48 hrs) my soil drains fine. I've also heard that "IF" your soil drains well instead raised beds can actually increase your need for irrigation. Also I would need to "rebuild" these raised beds as I'm not going to make 4+ acres of cropland have wood (or similar) permanent sides to the beds. I was instead thinking of using a dirt-pan that would form the beds 4" tall.

This has cased me to "rethink" if I need raised beds or not. I'd like to hear form ya'll on this and see what ya'll think. (here is some more info) I'm in zone 8b, we get on average 60 inches of rain a year. Going from 3.1" to 5.5" per month. Its also very humid here most of the year.

So let me hear from ya'll, do you think I'd be better off reducing tillage and just have 4 foot wide beds with 18-24" spaces between rows and only deep tilling with chisel plow when needed, light tillage (top 1-3inches to incorporate manure, compost, biochar and cover crops. (aprox 1 or 2 times a year) (this is the no raised bed plan). OR would I be better off making raised beds, having a permanent row of clover between the 4' wide 4" tall raised beds, deep chisel plowing them when needed and reforming these beds every time I plant a new crop, and discing to incorporate cover crops, manure, biochar etc while reforming these beds.(this is the raised bed plan)
 
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HI! I'm new, so take everything that i say with tons of salt. That being said, I live in Central-South-East Fl (by the big hole -Okeechobee lake. Zone 10A) which is considered tropical (like yours?) and I'm building raised beds. The reason why is at follows:

1. My soil (if you can call it that) its crap. nothing but sand. Whatever i plant, i have to have good healthy soil that will be able to hold on to moisture and nutrients, or i'll be having to start from scratch every season.

2. Since i knew i wanted localized areas of healthy soil where to grow a kitchen garden, I decided to do it in raised beds. That way it makes it easier on my back.

3. I got metal (aluminum?) beds from amazon at a good price (not the most cost effective option but definitely the fastest (hubby was going to take too long and it would have cost the same) and i don't have to worry about wood rot.

4. They look good. Even he's impressed. This is an important consideration if you are in an urban environment. Specially if the possibility exists of selling your house at some point.

5. Having my garden off the ground means i don't have to worry about my dogs getting into my plants.

6. Since I knew I would have to fill the beds, and wanted to be as cost efficient as possible, I decided to fill them using Hugelkultur concepts. There are tons of old and new wood to be found if i drive around my town.

7. I already have sprinkle lines, which are being converted into drip lines for irrigation. Eventhough with Hugelkultur you don't need to water as often, this is Florida, that is sand in the bottom and raised beds mean they heat up faster so more evaporation losses. Hopefully the irrigation lines will ofset this at least in the first few years.

8. There's a span of concrete between my house and the raised beds. So eventhough carpenter ants are an issue here in Florida (as well as termites), my house is cbs and hopefully the separation means that it won't be an issue. I will have to be on the look out for aphids tho.

But I did a lot of research before coming to this conclusion. there's a lot of good information on this site and youtube. Here are some videos that might help you make a decision. Good luck!










 
pollinator
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4” beds probably won’t make you use much more water, but if you have good drainage, raised beds probably aren’t needed.

Our spring weather is usually too wet and our summer weather too dry. I use some 4” beds.  They dry a little faster in the spring. By summer, most things have deep enough roots that they don’t dry out too much.
 
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C Rogers,

VERY GOOD QUESTION!!  I applaud your healthy skepticism, a resistance to belief in something just because everyone else does.  

I am going to say that yes, raised beds are better for plants, but this is not magic, and raised beds require some work.  So why are raised beds better?

1). Somehow the soil must be tilled to plant seeds, but tilling disturbs/destroys soil biota, especially worms and fungi.  By building a raised bed, the existing soil biota stays nice and healthy, and new, looser soil will colonize the new, upper layer.

2) drainage is vastly improved, but this may not matter for some.

3). Hugely importantly, raised beds tend to be filled with the absolute best, most healthy materials available.  This is made easier because a single bed is not too large compared to a whole garden.

4). As the beds are intentionally made to a workable size, there is little to no need to walk in the raised bed and thus compaction is reduced/eliminated.

5). Weeding is generally easier as one hopefully brings in weed free materials.  Also, as the bed is raised, there is less bending.

I could go on, but I think these points make the case.  I am converting all my beds to raised beds filled with woodchips, colonized by wine cap mushrooms which are decomposing the wood into fantastic soil bedding.

In case you can’t tell, I think raised beds are well worth the effort.

Eric
 
pollinator
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The question is valid, as they aren't applicable in every situation, but I think it's more complicated than drainage and dessication due to increased soil surface area.

I think that the fact that these beds aren't being disturbed, or compacted by being trodden on or driven over, are one of the reasons raised bed situations might work better than flat field situations. Decreased compaction means that soil biology is free to structure itself in the ways that make sense to the things living in them.

In addition to that, the access paths surrounding or running between raised beds are often either chipped or left in what equates to fallow pasture or grass. If these spaces are used to bolster the natural pollinator food and habitat, as well as create draws for predatory insects, and to house soil-building plants, and to nurture soil life, it is no wonder to me that the spaces of soil planted in crops between them do better than otherwise; in that respect, whether the beds are raised or not is, for me, an issue of access, increase of soil depth, and drainage.

It is worth noting that in studies done (I am still trying to find the article) involving farmers planting their marginal land, usually on the perimeter of cultivated areas, in pollinator habitat and soil-building species, the seasonal loss of topsoil for otherwise conventional operations was cut, if I remember correctly, to ten percent of what it had been.

The soil temperature thing is pretty straightforward, but situational. With four inches height, there would be some stratification of cool air, but I don't think it would be enough to channel away killing frosts. It would mitigate some of the worst normal effects until that killing frost, though, and could account for a lower mortality. A foot, I think, would be better.

My favourite idea here, and it depends on being able to get large quantities of clean biomass, preferably woodchips, is to excavate the paths to the subsoil, pile that topsoil atop the raised beds, and then backfill with the biomass. With woodchips, anyways, they become a water sponge and also flash flood mitigation, and in the medium-to-long-term, a soil life bioreactor.

Honestly, considering those factors that are usually caused by raised beds, whether they're raised or not is besides the question. I think what is relevant is how much adjacent space is left to nurture soil life, how much of a "filter" do you have to keep topsoil from washing away, and soil depth. If you have that soil life in adjacent soil banks, it will quickly recolonise cultivated strips, even if they are the sort that you till semi-regularly.

-CK
 
pollinator
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Location: South Carolina 8a
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My thoughts and experiences, coming from a similar climate in SC:
I will list out the pros and cons I have found without regard to carbon consumption.
Traditional raised beds:

Pros:
1)Help with drainage during the extra wet times.
2)Organization and aesthetics. Some people live in neighborhoods, and need to keep a neat tidy look to appease neighbors.
3) Ready to plant immediately, without regard to soil health below.
4) earlier spring plantings possible
Cons:
1) Dry out faster during the summer heat, and inevitable droughts.
2) Expensive, and can be a ton of work.
3) Say goodbye to growing good greens in the summer. The soil will stay hot and cause bolting and bitterness issues.
4) The soil freezes harder and faster in the winter, which reduces your growing season for the winter.


other options.

Sheet Mulching with Swales.
Gentle, wide swales can be used to help retain moisture and facilitate drainage. This would be dug first before sheet mulching, and should follow the contours of the land.
Pros:
1) Excellent soil health, and long term soil improvement
2) No need to till
3) Weeding is easier
4) More stable ground temperature
Cons:
1) Tons of work to get started
2) Large scale farm equipment like paper pots can no longer be used.
3) You will need to plant you first crops in an added soil medium. and the bed takes time to mature

Hugelkulture
Pros:
1) Excellent soil health
2) No Need to till
3) No need to water, or ever worry about too much water
4) Can grow greens all year long by using different microclimates of the Hugel mound.

Cons:
1) Tons of work to get started
2) Large scale farm equipment like paper pots cannot be used.
3) The bed takes more time to mature than the sheet mulch.
4) Can be considered unsightly by people with conventional tastes.

Conventional Till Farming
Pros
1) Easy to get started
2) Lots of products to spend your money on
3) You can plant a larger scale with less humans

Cons
1) Increasingly poor soil health
2) Lots of products to spend your money on
3) You have to plant a larger scale to see a return on investment.


So, for me, I have found sheet mulching to be most appropriate for my traditional annual plantings, and hugelkultur for the establishment of perennials. You may find aspects of each to incorporate into your style, but it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I am sure I missed many aspects of the pros and cons of these methods, but I wanted to list what was most appropriate for us and our climates. I also tried to leave politics out of it.
 
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Since where you live, what you grow, and your soil are all big factors in deciding whether to use raised beds or not, I did an experiment.

I made one raised bed.  I used it for a year.  I grew the same thing in and out of the bed to see which did better.  Then I decided if I wanted more raised beds.  

In my conditions, the answer was yes.... but not for the reasons I expected.  I found it much easier to work with boundaries on the garden.  It's easier for me to keep the soil fertility concentrated in one zone.  But it is more work to water in the drought and it freezes earlier in the winter, so I kept large areas of regular garden for things like potatoes and chickpeas that like the edge-times.
 
Eric Hanson
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C Rogers,

I am going to jump back into this discussion.  Since my last points, some additional, very important, pertinent points have been raised.  I am going to relate some of my own experiences.

I think I have a reputation on Permies for advocating woodchips and wine caps.  I am going to do so yet again and explain my reasoning.

I have actually condensed my gardening space to 3 garden beds.  By reducing the total area I have made it more manageable and can actually improve my produce and increase my productivity (weeding is much less a chore).

At present I have one bed with mature mushroom compost but oak logs that make up the sides are rotting quickly and I hope that I can get 1 more year out of them.  I have a second bed with specially treated (NOT GREENWOOD) 2x10 lumber with recently Inoculated woodchips.  And I have a third bed with no raised edges, but partially Inoculated wood chips raised to a height of about 4”-6”.  My plan for next year is to raise that bed with 2x10 lumber, fill with chips and fully Inoculate.  The following year I will do the same to the first bed whose sides should be completely rotten.

So great, you know my plan, but why does one care?  My first bed is proving to be extremely productive.  In essence I am custom making my own garden soil to my own very picky specifications.  Believe it or not, I actually went to the great effort of burying my own drip irrigation system that connects directly to my outside faucet at my house.  This was a long, circuitous route, but the drip emitters are of very high quality.  And I have not used them in years.

When I had the bed in the ground, our clay soil would dry out and get brick hard, and drastically impart plant growth.  Decomposed wood chips have a tremendous supply of organic matter.  They are loose but hold plenty of water.  Rain water that percolates down gets into the ground, and the ground and chips stay moist.  True, the upper roughly 2 inches dry out, but down below there is water in the mulch and the clay beneath.  While you might have to water more at first, this should decrease with time.  Aside from watering my newly sown mushroom spawn, I didn’t water at all this summer.

Weeding is vastly easier.  Firstly, there is not a lot of weed seed within the mulch.  Secondly, not a lot germinates.  Finally, importantly, as the weed roots are in loose material, they pull right out, especially when caught early.  I go one step further and lay down a layer of old paper on the surface and cover with a 2” or so layer of fresh wood chips.  This smothers most weeds in their tracks and adds yet more wood for my mushrooms to decompose into wonderful bedding.  I really, really don’t like weeding, so some preemptive steps pay back many times over.

As my beds are based on mushroom compost, I have an extremely healthy set of microbiota in my “soil”.  I am learning that the microbes in the soil is more important than high levels of NPK.  I also plant legumes to add nitrogen, but also also to get more soil microbes.  My ultimate goal for the bedding is to get it filled with all sorts of healthy and complementary microbes and other soil biota.

It is true that there can be a lot of work upfront, but in the long run, I find the gardening easier with time.  Also, ALL of the space in the raised bed is growing space, none is for walking space so it is very efficient.

I am not going to say that raised beds are the only way to go, but I am finding them to be better f great benefit.

Good luck, and keep the questions coming if you still have them.  And please, whatever you decide, please let us know how your plans work out!

Eric

 
Eric Hanson
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C Rogers,

I just wanted to make one other point.  I grow comfrey at the edges of each of my beds.  I use the comfrey for a couple of reasons.

1). Comfrey is an awesome source of NPK and a host of micro nutrients, thus adding to the fertility of the bed just through chop & drop.

2). Secondly I intentionally lay down layers of comfrey like a mulch to keep even more of the water sequestered in the wood.  

3). Finally, having comfrey break down on its own adds still more microbes to the wood chips.

I first started down my personal Permies journey looking for advice on growing comfrey.  My goal was to have a garden system that relied on absolutely no outside fertility.  For years, I had gone off chemical fertilizer, but I was still relying on bagged topsoil, bagged manure, bloodmeal and bonemeal.  These worked very well, but I wanted to be more independent.  I started with comfrey (which is actually a very good place to start) and have ended up at mushrooms.

Ultimately, I think the benefit of making your own very fertile soil will make your gardening life easier.

Eric
 
C Rogers
Posts: 67
Location: South Mississippi
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I may also need to further explain what I'm trying to do and how large an area I'm talking about...

First let me show what kind of equipment I am talking about making the raised beds.




This last image is showing the raised beds with a plastic mulch on it. (If I do raised beds in croplands I would eventually add drip lines and do this type of mulch)



Now this isn't exactly what I'd be using as this costs over $8000 while I can build something similar for under $800, so "IF" I go to raised beds I'll be doing some cutting n welding to make these. But IF it would help me greatly then spending some time and $$$ wouldn't be an issue as IF it helped allot I should make that money and time worth the effort. BUT as you can see this isn't what most of ya'll are talking about, these raised beds don't have permanent sides. They would have to be re-made at least every year if not every crop which could be 3-4 times a year. I think this would ruin any fungal and much of the natural flora, bacterial along with possibly killing my worms. I know that even IF I don't use this equipment I will still be using things to incorporate my composted manure, my vermicucompost and biochar...

My plan right now is to add 6-8 tons of composted manure per acre 1-2 times a year depending on crop needs (NOTE I am intensive farming which means close plant spacing and more nutrients needs for those crops). This may change up or down depending on what I observe and soil testing shows me. I will also be adding ash and biochar to this compost along with making a worm bed that I'll use to side dress plants and to add extra worms to my cropland.

Now to explain what I would do IF I DON'T make raised beds is instead of having to till up soil from the walking paths between the raised beds (some of the soil will fall/ drain/ collapse off the raised beds into the walking paths) and remake the beds after every crop. I instead would only use light tillage that would turn only the top 1-3 inches of soil to incorporate the soil amendments. This would be done in the late fall to early winter, at the same time I'm putting a cover crop of clover over the whole field(s). IMHO I think this would allow the compost, ash, and biochar time to settle, not burn the plants in the spring and do way less harm to the fungi, flora, microbes than the deeper discing, tillage needed to make the raised beds.

I will still need to also deep till with a tool called a chisel plow BUT this would still be needed in the raised beds too. But this would only be done when I see that the soil is compacted and needs better drainage. This equipment would only do major harm to the fungi's long reaching mycelium. But this equipment is basically 3 knives going 12-18 inches into the soil and are spaced 12" apart so most of the soil is not disturbed, but it allows water to drain well (till the soil is compacted again). And this equipment can be used only in the areas of the fields where compaction and water drainage is a problem.

Now in my test beds I will be making permanent raised beds and I do see advantages in them there. its in my crop fields that are in 1 acre sections that are rotated yearly in different crops that I see no need as imho I think they would be more harm than good. I still want to hear what ya'll think, as I am not the know all tell all type and will take in any and all info, see what is good and take some with a grain of salt. But I have been known to be wrong (I once thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken) :)

But please continue this discussion as I am learning things that can help me even if not in my croplands then it may help me in my flower perennial beds, along with my test and seed beds that I try new crops, test spacing for my fields and grow open pollinated plants to seed for my cropland.
 
Eric Hanson
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C Rogers,

Now I better understand your question and more importantly the context in which you wrote it.  I have a couple of thoughts.

When I was referring to raised beds, I was thinking of something that had distinctive and more or less permanent raised edges to contain a specially crafted soil.  What you are showing is really more like an advanced sort of tilling.  Really, I never understood the benefit of no-till until about 2 years ago when I started my mushroom beds.  One of the reason that I started the beds was to get a crafted, healthy soil that is dependent on having soil biota, especially long strands of beneficial fungi running throughout.  While there might still be some advantages of your raised beds over flat earth beds, it is not going to be of the type I described.

I wish I could comment intelligently about how your type of raised bed is going to work but I am afraid that I can't other than I don't think it will be much different that conventionally tilled soil with the annoying addition to the soil drying out much easier.  In my type of raised bed, the wood serves as a very good water sponge, and the roots/mycelia that spread into the subsoil tap into water otherwise unavailable.  On top of that, I have a mulch layer on top to cut down on evaporation.  Your plastic barrier will also help with evaporation, but I am afraid that it will invite all sorts of undesirable fungi etc.

Really, I wish that I could comment better, but I just can't.  I was thinking of something entirely differently.

Eric
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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I believe some people use chisel plows to keyline plow their land. I have always thought that this is a good idea, where appropriate, and that if there were a hopper right behind the knives, directing wood chips or other organic matter down to the bottom of the cut, that would basically serve some of the same functions as any buried wood application.

I don't like plastic mulch. I understand why some people think it's necessary, but I don't like it. I think if it is required, there is something wrong with the system. I wouldn't bother with it.

Two ideas I like much better are dedicated pathway areas, spaced exactly so as to accomodate the wheel ruts of the equipment you're using, all planted with soil-building plants that hold onto soil structure really well. I haven't nailed down the species yet, but I think that non-seeding, non-spreading comfrey people like to use for edging on their naturally bordered beds would do really well, along with green manure crops selected for long period of growth, such that you roll them down or mow them before they go to seed.

You could alternately have alternating strips of raised beds and fallow green manure and soil-building mix. You could rest the fallow strips a whole season, and if done on-contour, they would hold onto a massive amount of the topsoil regular working would otherwise rob from you.

If you are looking to build soil at an increased rate, as suggested by the amendments you want to till in, I can understand you not leaving permanent fallow strips, as you'd want, at some point, to put biochar and stuff there, too, if you want to work faster than the worms. But that is also an option, working only the beds, amending them to the hilt, and boosting soil life, specifically worms and appropriate fungi, and relying on that boosted soil biology to move everything to the undisturbed strips between. This would offer the advantage of holding the structure of the land better, and would better enable soil life to recolonise the worked strips or raised beds after tillage.

The equipment you're using looks interesting. Honestly, there are areas that exist on earth where just running that blue thing on-contour would result in enough texturing of the land to cause re-greening of whatever type is natural. I think that the microclimates it offers you aren't to be overlooked, especially if you read your land right as it pertains to the sheltering effects of that texture.

Please keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
C Rogers
Posts: 67
Location: South Mississippi
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Chris Kott wrote:I believe some people use chisel plows to keyline plow their land. I have always thought that this is a good idea, where appropriate, and that if there were a hopper right behind the knives, directing wood chips or other organic matter down to the bottom of the cut, that would basically serve some of the same functions as any buried wood application.

I don't like plastic mulch. I understand why some people think it's necessary, but I don't like it. I think if it is required, there is something wrong with the system. I wouldn't bother with it.

Two ideas I like much better are dedicated pathway areas, spaced exactly so as to accomodate the wheel ruts of the equipment you're using, all planted with soil-building plants that hold onto soil structure really well. I haven't nailed down the species yet, but I think that non-seeding, non-spreading comfrey people like to use for edging on their naturally bordered beds would do really well, along with green manure crops selected for long period of growth, such that you roll them down or mow them before they go to seed.

You could alternately have alternating strips of raised beds and fallow green manure and soil-building mix. You could rest the fallow strips a whole season, and if done on-contour, they would hold onto a massive amount of the topsoil regular working would otherwise rob from you.

If you are looking to build soil at an increased rate, as suggested by the amendments you want to till in, I can understand you not leaving permanent fallow strips, as you'd want, at some point, to put biochar and stuff there, too, if you want to work faster than the worms. But that is also an option, working only the beds, amending them to the hilt, and boosting soil life, specifically worms and appropriate fungi, and relying on that boosted soil biology to move everything to the undisturbed strips between. This would offer the advantage of holding the structure of the land better, and would better enable soil life to recolonise the worked strips or raised beds after tillage.

The equipment you're using looks interesting. Honestly, there are areas that exist on earth where just running that blue thing on-contour would result in enough texturing of the land to cause re-greening of whatever type is natural. I think that the microclimates it offers you aren't to be overlooked, especially if you read your land right as it pertains to the sheltering effects of that texture.

Please keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK


Wow, so much alike in thinking and some great tips.

First about the keyline plowing, my land has a slight slope and the way I am chisel plowing now is also keylineing. For those who don't know, keyline plowing is chisel (or other types of deep plowing and basicly making small trenches that instead of going up n down the slope are instead going sideways on the slope). This then stops the water from draining down hill and instead allows the water to drain into the ditch. Theoretically letting the water soak better into the soil instead of just draining on the top, eroding topsoil. Sometimes it helps sometimes not (as with much things with soil, your soil texture, depth of tillage, crop on top and many other factors can effect how well this does or doesn't do). And I luv the idea Chris about putting wood in these slices in the soil, I'm just not sure how I could add sawdust (preferably inoculated w/ mushrooms) into a 1/2" wide by 12-18 inch deep hole. Any pipe trying to deposit this would probably clog up and because of my sized tractor I couldn't go wider (say 1" wide x 18" depth) as this would need a huge tractor (over 75 HP) and I would need way more land to justify owning such huge equipment. Besides I like my ole' gal. She's a 70 year old tractor (1950 Farmall Super A).

Second, the mulch, I would be using a woven type that would be reusable. This would help reduce (though not eliminate) me adding to landfills. Also the woven type allows water to soak into the ground, it does though kill weeds which may not be an issue because of my intensive farming planting. With this type of planting you instead of planting 1 row every 3 feet between rows and then spacing plants (depending on plant) 2-18" apart as in normal row cropping. Instead you plant them in rows the same distance between rows in the bed as you plant them spaced "IN ROW". Example okra is planted normally in rows spaced 3 ft apart and spaced every 10-12 inches in the row. In intensive farming I'll be planting them on a 48" wide bed and have each row AND spaced between plants in the row every 12 inches. I only need to cultivate 1-2 times when the okra seeds first pop up and possibly the second time when the plants get to about 12" tall. After that the okra themselves shade between the plants keeping weeds down. Also me possibly adding sawdust mushroom mulch (I really like this idea and will look farther into this) and also adding a side dressing of vermicucompost as a mulch will also help keep weeds down. So I may NEVER need plastic mulch, but most larger scale farming says thats what you need if your not growing GMO's and using roundup (things I would NEVER DO!!!). So I hopefully wouldn't ever use plastic, BUT I am keeping an open mind to do whatever I would need to do to maximize production but still remain as organic as possible.

Third, I like the alternating row idea but I would instead do every 3rd row as right now I am instead rotating between 3-one acre plots and 1 of the 3 is in legumes all year, though part of that year the legumes are also a cash crop (planted in beans, such as red beans, black eyed peas, pink-eyed purple hull, and/or crowder peas. The only issue would be it may be harder to keep up the rotation of crops and this would also mean that the insects that ate one type of plant is now only 3-8 feet from them the next year when I rotate the rows. Versus hundreds of feet if I planted my crop from last year into a different acre of land. This may not help much for flying insects, But I'm at least thinking the farther they have to go to find the specific type of plants these insects want to eat the harder it is they may find them, or they may even find something in my neighbors yard more attractive to their liking than trying to find what I moved over hundreds of feet. (OH look the neighbors planted a garden too, lets fly that way) LOL (I know, I'm bad neighbor hunh LOL) but that'll teach em to let their yard grow bindweed, thistles, broom-sage and the dreaded coffee bean weed and Solidago canadensis (aka goldenrod)... Got a funny story about something like this (one of my neighbors has 60-70 bee hives on his land. my other neighbor decided to build a pool in their back yard. This June, July and Aug I see them jumping into the pool but then running for their lives as in the hottest part of the summer these bees while flying to my house to pollinate my flowers/veggies, decide to stop off and get a drink LOL well you can guess the rest... They now have a kiddie pool without chlorine in it, and their dogs and the bee's both prefer it to the larger pool...)

Fourth, you mentioned the walkways (aka where my tractor tires ride between the beds) I like the idea of non-spreading comfrey. I'm not sure if it could handle heavy traffic such as me walking on em harvesting, watering, adding side dressings etc along with my tractor driving over them. I will look into it though. But one thing I have seen that is great for a cover crop that is low growing, can handle heavy traffic and is a legume too boot is white perennial clover such as Dutch clover or Ladino Clover. These are in many pastures here and do fine even where cattle and/or equipment/trucks etc are driven daily. I would just have to stay off it when getting it established but after it gets over 2" tall it wouldn't harm it walking on em and by 3" tall even the heaviest tractors can't kill the stuff...
 
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