I have nearly an acre of new hugelkultur beds cover cropped with oats, peas, and red clover. I completed construction in September 2014. I intend to plant these beds by mid-May 2015 (predominantly artichoke and strawberry,) and I'm trying to decide how to best prepare the soil. I would prefer not to till for a variety of reasons: (1) erosion, (2) time required to operate small rototiller, (3) difficultly incorporating larger pieces of organic matter below the 4" of topsoil, (4) compaction of soil caused by walking all over beds. Any suggestions for managing these cover crops here in Southern Oregon? I'm considering mowing the annual plants, let's say early May, and letting them dry up for a couple weeks before covering the beds with a heavy strawmulch. Then planting my perennials into the straw mulch. My concern, however, is that the oats in particular will just grow through my mulch and compete with the not yet established strawberries and artichokes.
How have you managed your hugelkultur after the first cover cropped winter?
Cut it down before the oats go to seed if that's your biggest concern. I wouldn't bother tilling, that's one of the big benefits of the woody beds (they kinda' till themselves). Just cut it down and mulch immediately (lock up that N for the soil).
Hau Tucker, I agree with Dave, just chop and drop the cover crops. All you have to do from there is poke holes for planting. Once the crops are started well, think about putting in some new cover crops that grow low around the chokes and I would spread a thick layer of straw under the strawberries. Think "no un covered ground", that way you can always keep your soil where you put it or want it to stay.