We have some acreage with cleared land and bare soil. We are looking for suggestions on a good ground cover that is a dynamic accumulator or several plant types that will be beneficial to the soil and easy to seed. Working with very little funds so we will be doing this possibly by hand or with a riding lawn mower seeder.
Hopefully someone has a suggestion on what kind of seed(s) that can just lay on top of the soil and germinate. Some areas are on a mild slope.
It would really help us assist you if we knew a little about
* Your climate
* What your ultimate goal was.
Will this be pasture? Food forest? What kind of soil, and is it hard pan, or friable already? What are your time constraints?
This all matters in making seed selections.
An overview of cover cropping, from a permies perspective, would be to mix a wide variety of suitable plants.
Legumes will help capture nitrogen from the atmosphere, and leave it in your soil for other plants to utilize.
Brassicas encourage other types of soil biology, as do all plant families.
Each plant family has its benefits to the soil.
A good mix would include both grasses and broad leaves.
If you are trying to build soil as part of your plan, you should look at the root structure of the plants you choose.
For example, daikon radish has a beefy tap root which can not only penetrate deeply, but leaves a massive amount of organic matter to decay in the soil. Other plants have fiberous deep roots, while others spread only in the top few inches of soil. If you can mix all of these traits, you will be creating a very friable soil at multiple levels.
Each plant has its advantages, and disadvantages. By selecting a good mixture, you can reap the rewards of each, while at the same time, improving the balance of the soil food web. To grow healthy plants, you need a healthy soil.
An excellent book has been written on cover crops, and is a free download here:
Managing Cover Crops
Zone: I'm zone 7a : 0 to 5 (F) in NW North Carolina in the foot hills.
Goal: The land is cleared and we want to create a base for future permaculture design / food forest. Our trouble is the land is bare and we need an affordable way to cover it (not using traditional grass and straw) that allows for a nice base of a food forest.
Time: Now Feb-March. We need to protect our topsoil so there is not any erosion.
Type of soil: Our soil is mostly clay Oh, and this used to be timber land. Tons of pines were on the property previously.
Thank you for your interest and answers! I am checking out the book too to educate myself.
Charlene Matthews wrote:Hopefully someone has a suggestion on what kind of seed(s) that can just lay on top of the soil and germinate. Some areas are on a mild slope.
you will likely need to spend some money to get a cover crop started in the spring . If you are talking about a large area, consider Teff seed. It is a grass and is harvested as a grain for human consumption. from what I understand, it will sprout when sown directly on top of a firm soil. Teff hay also sells for a premium. I would add some treated red or white clover seed into the mix to fix nitrogen. Once this is established, you can come back with wild harvested seed (such as dandelion and wildflower) later in the spring.
if the area you want to plant is smaller, consider planting peanut. A 25-50# bag of unsalted/un-roasted peanut can be purchased relatively cheap. the suggestion of root crops is a good one. look into getting bulk daikon radish and carrot seed. A few pounds of that seed goes a LONG way.
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