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too late to plant living mulch?

 
S Ashby
Posts: 2
Location: western oregon
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We just bought new property and I'm trying to get my garden ready for planting. The space we have has been used as pasture for a long time so it is all uneven bunch grass. My plan right now is to do a shallow till to break up the bunch grass.

I was thinking of using seeding clover or some other living mulch after tilling. But is it too late to sew the clover? I'm not sure how long it takes to get established or how established it needs to be before I walk on it to plant my other vegetables.

Anyone have experience doing this? Or should I be trying something else? I'm not very excited about tilling in general but I definitely do not want to just leave the bare soil.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Some people seed buckwheat, usually in forage situations, for its ability to grow quickly. It also fixes nitrogen. I would suggest you look at the specific varieties open to you with an eye to the number of days to flower. This will give you an idea as to how mature the plants will be when you till it under, if your plan is to use the living mulch as cover and soil improvement before planting, or for that matter, if you are planning on tilling it in after they flower and the pollinators get at them.

I don't know where you're located, but the ultimate permie way to handle it (I can't as I'm in a city) is apparently, especially with former pasture, to seed it with a seed mix that includes mangel beets and daikon radishes among your clovers and buckwheats (and dandelions and kales and chard, you'll see where I'm headed) and run pigs over it when you're ready to till, a la sepp holzer. They will till everything pulling up the rooted veggie candy, allowing you to follow up something like 5-8 days after (depends on the hatching rate of the flies in your area) with chickens, who will clean up any seed, bugs, voles, mice, and worms too slow to escape them. Both animals fertilize with their passing (oh look, I made a funny). You could do this, if you either had your own, or borrow someones', depending on the community.

I think the important thing to consider is that if you don't seed right after you till, preferably with something that germinates and grows quicker than whatever you're trying to eliminate, you're just going to get the pioneer plants in the soil's seed bank taking up residence, including your bunch grass, in all likelihood.

Good luck.

-CK
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5615
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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bike chicken fungi trees urban woodworking
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Chris, Just a note about buckwheat...In my understanding it doesn't fix nitrogen but "converts insoluble phosphorus into a more available form and can be used to control annual and perennial weeds". I love it as a cover crop for all of that. For us, it doesn't do well until the weather warms and I do end up buying more seed every few years. It will reseed but not as thickly as I would like. We don't till but cut for mulch and leave the root to decompose. Our honey bees love it so much I usually leave it later than is ideal.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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You're kidding me! I'm going to have to look that up, because my understanding was that it was one of the non-leguminous hosts to nitrogen-fixing bacteria Rhizobia.

-CK
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5615
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
285
bike chicken fungi trees urban woodworking
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Chris Kott wrote:You're kidding me! I'm going to have to look that up, because my understanding was that it was one of the non-leguminous hosts to nitrogen-fixing bacteria Rhizobia.

-CK

I found reference to that after posting and will read more. Thanks for new (to me) information.
 
Chris Kott
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Judith, there are some excellent suggestions on these fora in threads about extending the growing season by ensuring the soil warms quickly and stays that way in the spring. I get excellent results by sowing into mulch that I topdress with a little compost. Also, burying wood like in hugelkultur works well for me.

-CK
 
S Ashby
Posts: 2
Location: western oregon
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Thanks for the suggestions. I would LOVE to use pigs but unfortunately we are too close to town to be zoned for that.

I'm actually looking to till first, then sow the clover or whatever to cover the soil and hopefully tamp out some of the grass. But I was thinking something short, so I can leave it in the pathways even when I plant the garden. I'll look into how long it takes the different varieties to flower. That is good advice and I didn't think about that.

Ideally, since we can't use pigs I would like to do a deep mulch but I didn't have the means for that this year.
 
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