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Perennial Cover Crops

 
Tracy Alred
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We're in Southern Utah and are looking for a low growing cover crop for the garden this year. What are your recommendations? Our soil is rock hard, so our onions, carrots, beets and potatoes didn't do very well this year. We will be doing some mulch layering this year to hopefully "liven up" our dirt.
 
Tom OHern
Posts: 236
Location: Seattle, WA
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So you really want a perennial cover crop? That would be a crop that doesn't ever die off. How would you plan on planting your annual crops in the midst of the perennial cover?

Going down the lots of mulch route is better. If you need more organic material in your soil, you can do a single annual cover crop, and when that is done, pile on 3 to 6 inches of mulch on top. Use the chop and drop method, keep adding mulch, and you should not need any more cover crops ever.
 
Tracy Alred
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I was planning on using the cover crop to repair nutrient depletment, weed control and various other issues. As far as planting new crops we would be using a no till method and hand planting. We're hoping that the cover crop would help with water compaction of the soil and be used for better absorption of the water.
 
Tom OHern
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Location: Seattle, WA
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Have you had your soil tested for nutrient deficiencies out or are you just assuming? Cover crops are great for getting more carbon into soils that have been over tilled and the carbon has been depleted. Tap roots are great for bringing nutrients up from deep soils. Fungal and bacterial systems are good for breaking down compacted surface soils into bio available nutrients. You need the latter, and the best way to do that is mulching. Perennial cover crops will out compete your annuals, and you will end up having to either hand weed them out, or till the soil.
 
Tracy Alred
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I haven't had it tested, I do know that for the last probably 5 years the crops that have been grown in that particular area have been corn and tomatoes. It gets tilled with a tractor a couple of times a year (not by us). This year it got tilled and not planted with anything and it was successful in growing a wonderful patch of goatheads.
I listened to a couple of different podcasts that had mentioned using perennial low growing cover crops as a way to repair soil and maintain weeds. They had said that the perennial crops were better because you didn't have to keep replanting.
 
Aaron Yarbrough
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Location: Austin, Texas
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Why not go with a cover crop of white clover like Masanobu Fukuoka? If you're doing hand planting you can just pull up the clover in the places were you want to plant. The clover forms a nitrogen fixing living mulch layer.
 
Tracy Alred
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Aaron, will that grow in the area I'm in?
 
Aaron Yarbrough
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Location: Austin, Texas
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I planted it last month in my garden in central Texas and it's coming in nicely. The seeds fairly inexpensive so you could always experiment. We went with white dutch clover.
 
Tracy Alred
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Why did you choose that particular clover? Is it a perennial or an annual? Sorry for all the questions, just trying to figure out the best route to go.
 
Aaron Yarbrough
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Location: Austin, Texas
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No worries. It's a perennial. Fukuoka used it his no-till system (c. One Straw Revolution). More recently, Jack Spirko (Survival Podcast) gave it a thumbs up a couple of months ago. I like that it's low growing and shallow rooting (Doesn't compete with my vegetable plants), fixes nitrogen, and is fairly hardy. I've read that you can eat it as a salad green but haven't tried it.
 
Tracy Alred
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I listen to Jack too. I will have to look into the other one. Thanks for your help. Let me know if you use it in salads.
 
Beth Mouse
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I cut white clover and fill my vita-mix halfway full with it. Then I fill the other half with fruit, add water, and whip up a super-nutritious green smoothie. Victoria Buotenko talks about how nutritious clover, dandelions, and weeds are in her various books.
 
Kevin Murphy
Posts: 40
Location: New Jersey Shore
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chicken forest garden urban
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Hi,
I could not help but chime in here. I listen to Jack and have just finished reading the One Straw Revolution.
Where is a good place to buy perennial clover seed?

-Kevin in NJ
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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Tracy Alred wrote:We're in Southern Utah and are looking for a low growing cover crop for the garden this year. What are your recommendations? Our soil is rock hard, so our onions, carrots, beets and potatoes didn't do very well this year. We will be doing some mulch layering this year to hopefully "liven up" our dirt.


This is a list of cover crops suggested for what you want. I'm not sure if any of them would be suitable for your region. I'm sending you a pm and would love to hear if you find out anything or try it.

http://www.soilfoodweb.com/Cover_Plants.html
 
Tracy Alred
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Victoria, I've never thought about mixing clover into a smoothie. How does it taste?
 
Tracy Alred
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Luke, thanks for the info. It is much appreciated.
 
Beth Mouse
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The clover smoothie definitely tastes green, but not really bitter. You will probably want to start with less clover and just use a bit and then also another green, like spinach or celery, which are milder. I am used to very green smoothie drinks now. Also, you can choose to add some stevia and vanilla which helps. Beth
 
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