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Intercropping Green Manures

 
Richard Yorke
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Hello,

Can anyone advise me on intercropping green manures. I've ordered some Red Clover (500g), Lupins(1kg), Alfalfa(500g), Phacelia(250g) and a few Common Comfrey seeds (36). Is it worth getting white clover (as a lower groundcover), vetch, rye or ryegrass?

My plan is to rake a 1 inch layer of clay soil mixed with potash from several bonfires in the past, over some hard-baked cracked bare clay soil. Then add the seed and cover with either some compost or some potash in effect sandwiching the seed. I'm planning on smothering out most of the weeds by intercropping green manures. Then leaving the plots to self seed. I've dug some drainage channels, to help prevent flooding. Thank you for any advice.
 
Marco Banks
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Perhaps I'm just missing something (which isn't a new thing for me), but intercropping these plants between what? Are you planning on doing this in a food forest, in a garden, in conventional row-crop agriculture . . . can you tell us a little bit more about the site, your purposes, and what you are growing as your primary crops?

 
Richard Yorke
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The site is a 3 Acre Field that is clay soil with virtually no organic matter incorporated into the soil. I'm looking to change the composition of the ground to grow a wider variety of things and perhaps attract some wildlife. I don't want to put Gypsum or lime into the soil because of the quantity I would require. My plan is to divide the field into smaller plots (5m x 5m) by removing patches of sod and then seeding with green manures, I'm not sure how best to mix the green manures in with each other. I would use the green manures as perhaps a feed for chickens, but the main idea is to get some organic matter into or on top of the soil and have the green manures spread as much as possible like a meadow.

The field is also prone to flooding in places from rain, so the plan is to dig trenches to remove excess water. At the moment there is grass and undesirable plants(weeds) on the field.
 
Tyler Ludens
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You could dig swales instead of ditches, and use the soil to store excess water, possibly enough to have a pond if there's a low area, or just to grow trees and other plants.

 
Marco Banks
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That extra information is very helpful. Thank you.

The cover crop species you listed are great, but may I suggest that you triple the number of different kinds of plants you add to your mix. Gabe Brown of Bismark North Dakota has become on of my internet favorites. Check him out -- there are dozens of videos of him online. He regularly seeds 20 or more different plants into his cover crop mix. He'll sew a cover crop both pre and post the primary cash crop. All that bio mass not only dgoes to feed his cattle. They graze his cover crop and turn whatever carbon that doesn't go

It may seem counter intuitive, but the larger the variety of your mix, the healthier they will all be together. A wide diversity of plants will capture more sunlight and each will occupy a slightly different level within the soil profile. If you can plant two such cover crops a year (warm season and cool season), you'll get an even broader mix.

Mob grazing those cover crops is then the next step. The cows (or whatever livestock you use) should be left in there only as long as it takes to eat about a third of the plant bio-mass, while smashing the other 2/3rds down to the ground. They poop, they smash, they pee, and they bring tremendous life to the soil.

Could you get access to wood chips? 3 acres is a big field, but every bit of carbon helps. If a tree trimming service knew that thew were welcome to dump on your land any time they've got a load, you may make a friend for life. I'd do at least part that field in wood chips --- the Back to Eden method. If tempted to till those chips into the soil, don't. The worms will do that for you soon enough.

Finally, don't till. Ever. With every pass of a plow or tiller, you are burning through whatever carbon you might have.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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What tools and animals do you have at your disposal?

If you have a tractor, you can mow (mechanical chop and drop) and use a subsoiler to break up the ground on a Key line. That is the only tillage I do, it loosens the hard pack and helps drawings and speeds up recovery. If the ground is BARE as in not even weeds will grow, then you can till in a little compost and potash as you seed.

If you have animals, great! Mob graze them. You can do 3 acres with chickens or rabbits, or any larger animals you have or can borrow. If you can't get animals for whatever reason, look at cover crop rollers to mechanically stomp the crop. Then spray with compost tea to speed up the decomposition.
 
Richard Yorke
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I could get hold of some chicken or rabbits(Myxomatosis could be a problem though) not sure about the best way to contain them on 3 acres, there's quite a few hares and pheasants around. My parents did ask around briefly locally if anyone was interested in putting sheep on the field, they'd take some lamb meat in trade, but no one seemed that interested. Although the land itself is not brilliant, has ragwort on it and would need some form of water supply to the animals. My neighbour has kept a few pigs in the past so he might be willing to put them on the field to graze, some of the green manure.

My father has a small ride on Yamaha Tractor with an attached cutter, though no other attachments. There's an additional 2 acres with some planted trees on it, and grass which he zealously cuts low at least once every fortnight, including insisting on me to cut around the hundred plus trees with a petrol mower.

The land area is quite exposed to the wind and very flat, the region where I live in the UK is known as South Holland. I thought about hedging as well, though I wonder if Elephant Grass would be quicker and cheaper than something like Blackthorn. The land is also quite compacted from having just wheat grown on it 7 years ago, for at least 10 years previous to that point. Clearing off the top layer of turf/sod leaves a cracked clay wasteland, so at least gives a blank slate to work on.


The back to Eden method is something that interests me. I've wondered though how many seeds might survive if I just sowed directly onto grass, but perhaps covered with a little soil or compost, what would be the most bang for buck in relation to using a thin top soil and many seed, or few seed but good deeper soil? Are seed balls a good alternative? Is there any useful bomb prove seed that can survive better, being overwhelmed by thistle and grasses. I'm aiming for a shotgun blast amount of activity, then let nature do some of the work. Thank you for the input.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Have you watched any of geoff lawton's videos about how he turns a weedy grass field into a food forest? I think they're very inspiring.

I'll try to link to some of them, but the automatic emoticon feature might screw up the links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBW4o_Bq7Og&list=PLALaXv5f4o6zOaQoiItZVBOnXxFXD8NNt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2bvTeMUu&index=3&list=PLALaXv5f4o6zOaQoiItZVBOnXxFXD8NNt

http://geofflawton.com/videos/chicken-tractor-steroids/
 
Richard Yorke
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I've watched some Geoff Lawton videos on YouTube now. Interesting stuff, I think if I were to go down that route later though there would be a substantial investment in improving the land to that level of quality. Not sure about how I would go about marketing some of the produce in the UK, might just use what I grow for personal consumption, although there's Ebay. Does anyone one have any opinion about Burdock for improving the land and its uses?
 
David Hernick
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Location: Oakland, CA
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There is a thread on burdock root! http://www.permies.com/t/8004/plants/Burdock-Realy-Good

Burdock is a dynamic accumulator, it is pulling up nutrient from deep in the soil and bringing them up.  It's roots are breaking up the clay soil and the leaves and roots are adding organic matter.

Pickling it seems like a good use.  They sell it at farmers markets here in California, but have not tries out any recipes myself.  There is a seed company here that sells varieties that have been sleceted for edibilty
http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seeds_edible_burdock.html
 
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