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sheet mulch / cover crops

 
Bobby Eshleman
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I would like my sheet mulched garden to get as close to a closed-cycle as possible. What green manure/cover crops are good for a sheet mulch bed? Is there any possibility of growing rye, barley, winter wheat, etc...? Again, my ultimate goal is nominal imports.

*sorry, I intended for this to be a reply to my other thread. I would appreciate an admin combining threads. sorry again, thankss.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1401
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Your location? In the south canna lillies make EXCELLENT mulch. Every thing I plant in a bed that is filled with leaves and stalks from cannas, elephant ears and banana leaves does well. And they come back like gangbusters every year so I never have to go out and buy more. Of course, if you live in Michigan that is not going to help much.
 
Bobby Eshleman
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I live in NW Oregon, and I am not sure about lillies, but I'm sure I could get something similar. Because the 2nd layer right under the top straw layer is compost, an inch or 2 deep, I might trying spreading the straw and broadcasting something a month and a half or so pre-first frost that will die in the winter. Or something that will survive the winter that I can chop down a few weeks ahead of next year's planting.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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pretty much any organic matter can be sheet mulched..

I LOVE to sheet COMPOST..in my garden..it tends to be messy and ugly sometimes, but it really works well..I throw everything right on top of the garden..and compost in place..if it gets a bit trashy looking I'll try to cover it with a tad of weeds or straw..but I literally just throw it all out..so if you come to my garden you'll be seeing eggshells and coffee filters (hubby is a drinker here)..as well as shredded junk mail, bits of potato peels and such..all over the place..sometimes the critters will even walk off with something or other and leave it in the lawn.

I chop and drop things from all over, anything that doesn't have seeds..that might invade my garden..rhubarb and comfrey are great in the garden, you just cut them, drop them and they grow again and again..you can even take some branches off your trees, some like alder are really good for that..just the tender little leafy sprouts are best..as they have a lot of juice in them.

leaves, bark, sawdust, hay, straw, whatever.

I'm planting small amounts of grain for breads and cereals this year, and plan to use all the straw after threshing ..even ornamental grasses work well..
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1401
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Anyone from NW Oregon please feel free to correct me:

I believe you can garden all winter there.

I plant winter rye as a 'lawn' - the areas that I keep open as pathways for trucks or other equipment.

Then I occasionally mow those areas, bagging the grass, and dump the fresh green grass clippings in the beds around the winter plantings of:

Carrots, Garlic, Onions, Kale, Mustard, Turnips and Radishes

When we do get the occasional snow or freeze those crops actually benefit from it and are sweeter tasting than when grown in the heat of summer.

By constantly adding the green grass and weed clippings and some bedding from the turkey and chicken pens the soil seems to just be getting better.

I always have more greens than I can eat so I just lay those down on top of the soil as well.

Now it is April and already hot in my area. I have let all of those plants go to seed and I will plant again in the fall. Some will reseed by themselves.
 
Bobby Eshleman
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Brenda and Jeanine, thank you for the great advice. I think I will experiment with rye, comfrey, and maybe some other stuff. I will have to give composting in place a try at some point with the more fresh stuff.
 
Shep Wallaby
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Rivers NSW Australia
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I have just bought a 13 acre property which includes a developed orchard of about 4 acres; it has had commercial stone fruit out of there for many years, and now is under 220 young custard apples. The land has been well maintained, but years of tractor compaction and monoculture has had its effects. The first task to my mind is thickly sowing oats throughout the orchard between the rows, to grow for mulch and green matter into soil which will with subsequent seasonal sowings of oats, rye, clover, lucerne, vetch will deepen, and become enriched. Oats first as they are in season now and are cheap, and I have minimal moneys. I walked up and down the alleys between the rows of trees 'doing it 17th century' as my son observed; with a big seed bag, exploring techniques of slinging seed about. That was under 2 weeks ago. I can see the seeds starting to change, and I look forward to watching the bright green cover the space over the next weeks. I will let it grow and slash it back with a scythe when it is about 3ft tall.
Sourcing lots of comfrey is high on the list, with much of it planned for growing under the trees; again, great all year mulch and a deep nutrient miner. Grows like a frog in a sock where I live (northern NSW Australia). Sunflowers are another cheap and cheerful seed to throw about thickly. Terrific amounts of green material when slashed back, and the gorgeous blooms are the ultimate bonus...as are the bees they attract.
Apart from growing soil, the plan is always to generate heaps and heaps of mulch with each sow and slash cycle, ultimately building into a rotation of gardens in improved soil. I do not want to use machines and heavy cultivation on the soil, and chickens are the answer for intensive 'tractoring' of a bed to ready it for planting. Chickens are ... fantastically well designed for this. Twenty hens managed into a tractoring force turned my last place from a clay pan under lantana into 1/4 acre of more food than we could keep up with, even with the help of neighbours and friends!
At this beginning stage, the goal is to improve soil and heal land. One day this will be a diverse organic market garden, but right now...build the soil with covers and green manures.

 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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That sounds like a good plan Ms Wallaby. Green manure, and its resulting organic matter will help any soil to build, and help with water retention/draining.

Another good cover crop for you might be buckwheat. It is so fast growing, that it is often sown to keep weeds from sprouting. Many farmers plant it, and mow it 30 days later. If you have crops growing, you can under sow them with buckwheat about 5 weeks before you plan to chop&drop them. By the time the crops are ready for dropping, the buckwheat will have blanketed every millimeter of soil with fresh green growth to add to your mulch/compost.

EDITED to add: In your climate, you could probably get in 10-12 plantings of buckwheat per year.



 
Bobby Eshleman
Posts: 53
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Shep and John, thank you both for the thoughtful replies. I think that buckwheat is definitely going to be an addition, as well as winter rye during the fall/winter in some spots.
 
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