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perennial cover crop

Posts: 10
Location: Romania, zone 5b equivalent in usa
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I have watched a few youtube movies about Dr. Elaine Ingham and soil food web. In there, she says that, if we have lots of life in soil, we should have great plants above, too.
That's something we all know, for sure, however, I was intrigued about her way of achieving this.
She talks about perennial cover crops, plants that are evergreen if possible, with deep roots, and small height above the ground. This way the bacteria & fungi is always fed.
Also, these deep roots, will create good soil deep underground, decompacting it.
There is a list here: http://www.soilfoodweb.com/Cover_Plants.html but it is about low grow plants.
Is there a list somewhere of deep rooted plants that can go through compacted soil, preferably perennial too?
Does anybody know a few plants that are suitable for this job?

Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Low growing, perennial, nearly evergreen, covered in flowers for most of the year, grows by runners that send down taproots: frog fruit http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PHNO2

I'm still experimenting with this, but it didn't seem to hurt the saffron to grow under a layer of this. My collards and roses look happy. Everything else but the rosemary is too young to tell or lived the expected lifetime. Rosemary is a special case, as I somehow always manage to kill it no matter what I try. I haven't been having good luck getting seeds to germinate in the middle of the frog fruit, but I'm not the best about keeping steady soil moisture. It was a thin covering during the last planting period. I'd like to try again next season now that the thicker cover of frog fruit may help seal moisture close to the surface. If that doesn't work I'll go the other direction and pull back larger open areas when I plant seeds.
gabriel munteanu
Posts: 10
Location: Romania, zone 5b equivalent in usa
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Here's an update on my perennial cover crop project. I have been at a loss as what would be my first step. When I wrote the initial post, I thought that planting the right perennials, their deep roots would break the compacted soil. Now I am not so sure any more.
For example, here:  
 , she says that if the roots do not run deep, then the nature tells us that we have compacted soil, and we need to address that problem. The solution is compost, and the micro-organisms in it. From other movie that I couldn't find to place the link here, I know she sais that we must inoculate the soil at compaction depth with that compost, and the life there would break it and give it structure so the roots can then grow below.
However, I know that the micro life in the compost cannot live without root exudates.
It's like that story, who was first, the egg or the hen?
Should I put the root first, then the bacteria and fungae would appear and flourish, breaking compaction along the way, and the root will go deeper and deeper, together with the life around it [that's something that I would prefer.]?
Or, I should first make compost, inoculate the soil with it, then add the root - from here videos it seems that most of us get the compost pile wrong, and we should be very scientific about that process?
Posts: 1757
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Russian Comfrey is a permaculture all-star—specifically, the Bocking 14 variety.  It sinks a root deep into the soil, covers a significant amount of space when full-grown, its leaves are fantastic compost activators, and it comes back year after year.  Where I live, I cut it back about every second month, even in the winter.  

If you are not familiar with it, search on this forum and you'll find all sorts of threads and videos on it.

As for which to put down first, the compost or the plant, I would encourage you to put down a heavy layer of organic material of some sort—any mulch is good mulch.  I use hundreds of wheelbarrow loads of wood chips throughout my food forest/integrated orchard.  But any plant-based mulch will do—grass clippings, spoiled hay, manure, leaves or pine needles . . . or all of them.  Microbes WILL live in mulch, even without root exudates.  Any organic mulch will eventually break down, which is the basically the same thing as compost.  Fungi will thrive in a thick layer of mulch.

Best of luck.

Posts: 17
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As I understand it, compaction creates a toxic, anaerobic layer which roots will not penetrate.  They grow sideways instead.  Ideally you would break through the compaction layer, and introduce beneficial biology, at the time of planting or immediately before.  Depending on the depth of compaction and the size of the project, this could be as involved as using a deep ripper with tubing attached, or a simple handheld soil injector.  I've had some success pounding rebar through the compaction with a hammer, then dribbling compost extract down the hole; just be sure to check every few swings to make sure you can still pull the rebar back out.

The compost/tea/extract should have not only healthy compliments of bacteria and fungi, but also protozoa and beneficial nematodes; otherwise nutrient cycling will not happen.

Interestingly, Dr. Ingham lists some ground covers that many would shun as overly aggressive, like bugle and creeping Jenny.  These suit my situation just fine.  What works best for you will depend on your climate and your crop.
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I am researching low growing perennials to plant as strips/paths in one of my fields in order to nurse beneficial microbes throughout the year. Doing so is an investment in time and resources, so I would like to avoid planting perennials that are too eager to spread from their strips into my annual rows. It's a fine balance of these qualities: competes against weeds but doesn't spread into adjacent beds, withstands foot traffic/occasional tractor tire traffic, thrives in full sun/part shade, etc. I live in the mountains of NC, a climate closer to the Northeast than the South (zone 6b). Elaine Ingham's list of low growing perennial crops includes some I would be wary of establishing so close to my annuals. Anyone able to shed any light on this?
Carl Trotz
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Perhaps creeping thyme?  It's on Dr. Ingham's list, and although it will spread eventually, in my experience it does so very slowly.  The downside is that it hasn't - for me - created a weed-choking ground cover.  Some weeding would probably be necessary.  But it will provide protection, attract lots of beneficial insects, and of course feed the soil life.

Posts: 11
Location: Willamette Valley, Oregon (PNW), Zone 8, Soil: Silty Clay, pH: 5, Flat-ish, Rainy Winter, Dry Summer
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For those of you looking for the broken links to the cover crops listed on soil food web, they can be found here:
and  here:

I've pasted these plants below, but please note that this list was originally created in 2014 and there are a lot of misspelled and/or outdated scientific names,  so if you can't find them in a database like https://plants.usda.gov, try googling them first to find their correct/alternate name.  Same goes for some of the url resources (some of which may no longer exist).

Low Growing Perennial Cover Plants for Northwestern US

Ajunga Reptans (Carpet Bugle) Zones 4-9. Height: 2-3"
         Swallowtail Garden Seeds (Swallowtailgardenseeds.com) 1-877-489-7333

Arctostaphylos edmundsii Carmel Sur Manzanita (Sur Manzanita)
          Moose Creek Nursery.com 760-749-3216

          Yerba Buena Nursery (yerbabuenanursery.com) 650-851-1668

Aubrieta x cultorum (Rock Cress) Zones 4-9. Height: 3-6"
          Swallowtail Garden Seeds (Swallowtailgardenseeds.com) 1-877-489-7333

Campanula poscharskyana (Serbian bellflower) Zones 3-8. Height: 6"

Ceanothus maritimus (Bluff California Lilac)(rare)

           Las Pilitas Nursery (laspilatis.com) 760-749-5930

           Bay Natives (www.baynatives.com ) 415-287-6755

Chrysanthemum paludosum  (Creeping Daisy)  
            American Meadows 877-309-7333 Amazon.com

            Outside Pride  (outsidepride.com)  800-670-4192

Corethrogyne filaginifolia Silver carpet (Common Corethrogyne and California Aster)

           Las Pilitas.com 760-749-5930 Larner Seeds (www.larnerseeds.com)

Dichondra - Zones 8-11. Height: 1-2".

Erigonum caespitosum (Matted Buckwheat)

           Pacific Rim Native Plant Nursery (www.hillkeep.ca )
           Canada Geoscape Desert Nursery (www.geoscapenursery.com)  208-884-1251

Euphorbia maculate

Fragaria virginiana var. platypetala  (Western Alpine Strawberry)

           Las Pilitas Nursery  (laspilatis.com) 760-749-5930

Festuca ovina L. (Sheep Fescue)

           American  Meadows  (www.americanmeadows.com )  877-309-7333                                                                                      

Herniaria Glabra (Green Carpet) Zones 5-8. Height: 1-3"

Heuchera hirsutissima (Idyllwild Rock Flower)

            Las Pilitas Nursery  (laspilatis.com) 760-749-5930

Horkelia parryi  (Parrys Horkelia)

            Las Pilitas Nursery  (laspilatis.com) 760-749-5930

Lemon Frost Thymeis - Zones 5-8. Width: 18" diameter.

Leptinella gruveri (Miniature Brass Buttons) Zones 7-9. Height: 1-2"
Lowe's Hardware

Leptinella minor - Zones 7-9.

Lysimachia nuinmularia (Creeping Jenny) Zones 5-8. Height: 2-6"


Juncus phaeocephalus

Mazus reptans (Creeping mazus) Zones: 5-9. Height: 2-4".
Lowe's Hardware

Mentha requieneii (Corsican Mint) Zones 6-9, Height 6".

Monardella macrantha (red monardella, hummingbird monardella and Hummingbird Coyote Mint)
             High Country Gardens (highcountrygardens.com) 800-925-9387

              Nemophila Maculata (Five Spot) Amazon.com

'Nana' Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla neumanniana) Zones 4-6. Height: 1-3"

Nemophilia maculate

Oenothera californica (California Evening Primrose)

              Plant world Seeds (http://www.plant-world-seeds.com/)

Penstemon  heterodoxus  (Sierra Penstemon)

              Northwest Native Seed, 17595 Vierra Canyon Rd #172, Prunedale, CA 93907

              Las Pilitas Nursery (laspilatis.com)   760-749-5930

Potentilla aurea (Cinquefoil) Zones 4-8. Height: 2-6"

Pratia pendunculata (Blue Star Creeper) Zones 6-9. Height: 1-2"

Sagina subulata 'Aurea' (Scott Moss) Zones 3-9. Height: 1".
Bluestone Perennials Nursery

Salvia sonomensis  'Hobbit Toes'

              California Flora Nursery  (calfloranursery.com)  707-528-8813

Satureja douglasii (Yerba Buena)

               Amazon.com (Little Grove seeds)

Saxifraga Arendsil (Purple Robe) Zone 4-9. Height: 6"

Sedum glaucophyllum (Cliff Stonecrop)


               Outside Pride  (outsidepride.com)  800-670-4192
               Seed man.com

               Portland  Nursery  (portlandnursery.com) 503-231-5050

Sedum oreganum (Green Stonecrop)

               Seed man.com

               Portland  Nursery  (portlandnursery.com) 503-231-5050

Sedum 'Silver Moon'

               Portland  Nursery  (portlandnursery.com) 503-231-5050

Selleria microphylla (Fine TIde Turf) Zones 8-10. Height: 1".

Thymus pseudolanuginosus (Woolly Thyme) Zones 5-9. Height: 2".

Thymus praecox 'Reiter's Red' - Zones 3-8.

Thymus reiter (Reiter Creeping Thyme) Zones 4-9.

Thymus serpyllum (Creeping Thyme, Mother of Thyme) Zones 4-7. Height: 2-4"

Trifolium repens (Dutch White Clover) Zones 3-10. Height: 3-5"

Veronica Prostrata (Prostrate or Rock Speedwell) Zones 4-8. Height: 4-6"

Wallowa Mountains Mossy Sandwort (Desert Moss) Evergreen. Zones 4-8. Height: 1".

Zinnia grandiflora (Prarie zinnia) Zones 4-9. Height: 4"


Low Growing Perennial Cover Plants for Northeastern US

Achillea tomentosa (Woolly Yarrow). Zones 4-10. Height: 6-12 inches.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry). Zones 2-6. Height: 6-12 inches.
Chamaemelum nobile (Roman Chamomile). Zones 4-6.
Hypericum reptans (Creeping St. John's Wort). Zones 5-9. Height 4-12 inches.
Origanum vulgare (Oregano). Zones 4-9. Height: 4-12 inches.
Sedum spurium 'Fulda Glow' (Fulda Glow Stonecrop). Zones 3-9. Height: 4-6 inches
Sedum spirium 'Tricolor' (tricolor Stonecrop). Zones 2-9. Height: 4-6 inches.
Sedum 'Vera Jameson' (Vera Jameson Stonecrop). Zones 3-9. Height: 10-12 inches.
Seudm spurium 'John Creech' (John Creech Stonecrop). Zones 3-8. Height: 1-4 inches.
Sedum sieboldii (Stonecrop or October Daphne). Zones 3-9. Height: 6-12 inches.
Sedum reflexum 'Angelina' (Angelina Stonecrop). Zones 3-9. Height: 3-6 inches.
Sedum 'Bertram Anderson' (Bertram Anderson Stonecrop). Zones 3-9. Height: 6-12 inches.
Teucrium spp. (Germanders) T. Chamaedrys 'Prostratum' (or 'Nanum'). Zones 5-8. Height 6-8 inches.
Teucrium spp. (Germanders) T. Montanum. Zone 7.
Thymus praecox subsp. arcticus 'Lanuginosus' (Woolly Thyme). Zones 5-9. Height: 1-2 inches.
Thymus praecox subsp. srticus 'Coccineus' (Crimson thyme). Zones 5-8. Height 1-3 inches.
Thymus praecox subsp. arcticus 'Quinquecostatus', 'Albus', Zones up to 4. Height: 4 inches.
Thymus pulegiodes, T. sephllum (Mother-of-Thyme). Zones 4-8. Height: 6 inches.

Hardiness Zone 3 (temperatures to - 40 degrees F)

Antennaria parvifolia Nutt. (Nuttall’s)

*-Antennaria plantaginifolia (L.) Richardson (woman’s tobacco) Packet $2.50 Prairie Moon Seed

Antennaria dimorpha (Nutt.) Torr. & A. Gray - low pussytoes

-Antennaria neglecta (Prairie Pussytoes) Praire Moon Seed Packet $2.50 1/8 oz $30.00

*-Aster macrophyllus (big leaved aster) Prairie Moon Seed Packet  $2.50

Antennaria umbrinella Rydb. (umber pussytoes)

Dianthus armeria L. (Deptford pink) *many other species but not this one

-Fragaria virginiana Duchesne (Virginia  wild strawberry) Prairie Moon Seed Packet $2.50 *many other species but not this one

Fritillaria pudica (Pursh) Spreng. (yellow fritillary or yellow bell) *many other species but not this one

* Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium) Prairie Moon Seed Packet $2.50, 1/8 oz. $15.00

Lesquerella alpina (Nutt.) w. Watson var. alpina (Alpine Bladderpod)

Leucocrinum montanum Nutt. ex A. Gray (Mountain Lily, sand lily common starlily)

* Lewisia rediviva Pursh var. rediviva (bitter root)

Linnaea borealis L. (twinflower)

*Lysimachia ciliata L. (fringed loosestrife) Prairie Moon, Seed Packet $2.50

*Oenothera caespitosa Nutt. ssp. montana (Nutt.) Munz (evening primrose, desert gumbo lily)

Oxytropis lambertii (Purple Locoweed) Prairie Moon, Seed Packet $2.50, 1/8 oz. $12.50, 1/4 oz. $20.00, 1/2 oz. $35.00, 1 oz.  $60.00, 1 lb. $900.00. *many other species but not this one

Penstemon eriantherus Pursh var. eriantherus (fuzzytongue penstemon) *many other species but not this one

Phlox hoodii RIchardson ssp. viscidula (Wherry) Wherry (Hood’s)

Phlos hoodii Richarson ssp. muscoides (Nutt.) Wherry - aka Phlox bryoides  (Moss) *two other species but not this one

Physaria didymocarpa (Hook.) A. Gray (common twinpod)

* Sedum lanceolatum TOrr. ssp. lanceolatum (spearleaf or lance-leaved stonecrop)

Townsendia hookeri Beaman (Hooker’s Townsend daisy)

Vicia americana Muhl. ex Willd (American vetch)

Viola nuttallii Pursh (Nuttall’s yellow prairie violet)

* http://www.jelitto.com
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