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Aida Alene
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So I've done a lot of reading on cover crops but can't seem to find any definite information on how to kill Crimson clover in a no till garden, especially in my climate (zone 7 some years, but mostly zone pacific north west. I am very afraid of planting anything from the clover family as I've been weeding vetch out of my garden for years that came with some soil.

I mostly want to grow buckwheat from spring to late fall, and then finish with a fall plant of oats to cut down in spring. However I also think my soil could do with a nitrogen fixing crop and I wonder what would be the best and if there is a kind I could plant in early spring and then kill and plant buckwheat over? Usually I see legumes talked about as if I would leave them in all winter. Need more info... help!
 
Jeff Stainthorp
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I'm pretty sure with proper management, crimson clover can be an excellent addition to any system, especially no-till. I personally love it, and let it grow where it wants. But if you're worried about it taking over, as long as you mow it down low right as it is budding (or early flowering stage, before it develops seeds) I think you'll be just fine. Here's a link to a S.A.R.E article, it's kind of geared toward larger scale operations, but it still has a lot of useful information. It also mentions oats and crimson clover as companions: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Legume-Cover-Crops/Crimson-Clover

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Aida Alene wrote:So I've done a lot of reading on cover crops but can't seem to find any definite information on how to kill Crimson clover in a no till garden, especially in my climate (zone 7 some years, but mostly zone pacific north west. I am very afraid of planting anything from the clover family as I've been weeding vetch out of my garden for years that came with some soil.
While I agree that vetch can be a bit troublesome, I am a little confused as to why you don't just plant through the clover. Clover will stunt when shaded and only come up strong when sun is available, this makes it one of the top nitrogen fixers for permaculture style crop plantings since it will stunt until it is given access to sunlight, at that point it will spring forth and fix nitrogen, grow tall so you can cut it down as an IN PLACE MULCH which will further enrich the soil.

I mostly want to grow buckwheat from spring to late fall, and then finish with a fall plant of oats to cut down in spring. However I also think my soil could do with a nitrogen fixing crop and I wonder what would be the best and if there is a kind I could plant in early spring and then kill and plant buckwheat over? Usually I see legumes talked about as if I would leave them in all winter. Need more info... help!
Buckwheat is a good cover crop but if you want oats as a harvest crop then the buckwheat will not work as well since oats are a tall growing crop that takes around 100 days to head and then needs to dry on the stalk prior to harvesting so you don't cut "Milk" stage oats (same goes for wheat, rye, and barley, all these grains have to go through a "hardening stage" while still in the ground.  I would suggest that since you already have the crimson clover in place, just use it instead of thinking you have to eradicate it. Same goes for the vetch. Vetch and clovers work great as an after the harvest cover/ nitrogen fixing crop that can either be crimped (pressed) down so the broken stalks rot in place. These two also work great for planting any of the grains since the grains are usually late fall planted and come off in June or July, once the harvest is in, crimp down the straw and the vetch and clover comes on strong for the fertilizing cover crop.

Redhawk
 
Aida Alene
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
Aida Alene wrote:So I've done a lot of reading on cover crops but can't seem to find any definite information on how to kill Crimson clover in a no till garden, especially in my climate (zone 7 some years, but mostly zone pacific north west. I am very afraid of planting anything from the clover family as I've been weeding vetch out of my garden for years that came with some soil.
While I agree that vetch can be a bit troublesome, I am a little confused as to why you don't just plant through the clover. Clover will stunt when shaded and only come up strong when sun is available, this makes it one of the top nitrogen fixers for permaculture style crop plantings since it will stunt until it is given access to sunlight, at that point it will spring forth and fix nitrogen, grow tall so you can cut it down as an IN PLACE MULCH which will further enrich the soil.

Buckwheat is a good cover crop but if you want oats as a harvest crop then the buckwheat will not work as well since oats are a tall growing crop that takes around 100 days to head and then needs to dry on the stalk prior to harvesting so you don't cut "Milk" stage oats (same goes for wheat, rye, and barley, all these grains have to go through a "hardening stage" while still in the ground.  I would suggest that since you already have the crimson clover in place, just use it instead of thinking you have to eradicate it. Same goes for the vetch. Vetch and clovers work great as an after the harvest cover/ nitrogen fixing crop that can either be crimped (pressed) down so the broken stalks rot in place. These two also work great for planting any of the grains since the grains are usually late fall planted and come off in June or July, once the harvest is in, crimp down the straw and the vetch and clover comes on strong for the fertilizing cover crop.

Redhawk


i had to re-read this many times and still feel a bit confused. I have never grown a cover crop, and i think thats what i struggle with when reading info about cover crops, is that a lot of it is written for people who already have been permaculture gardening for years and understand many basic things. For instance, do you mean, once you cut down the grain crop as mulch, then you throw down the clover seeds? i am having a hard time finding specific planting dates and times for cover crops. Another example on specifics, how mature is the clover when i'm planting other crops into it? If the crops i am planting are say onions, won't the clover grow taller and choke them?

With the oats, i meant i would use them as mulch, not to harvest the actual oat seeds... not sure if thats what you thought i meant. I thought the oats acted as a winter protection so the soil isn't bare, i didn't get the impression that it was important to leave them in until mid summer when they were totally ripe, is this wrong?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Aida,  Let me try to simplify things, or give better explanation. 

A cover crop is anything growing that covers the soil, usually they are talked about from a fertilizer/ mulch point of view since they can be used as either fertilizer or as a mulch layer just by cutting and letting it lay where it falls (chop and drop).
The idea is to keep your soil covered at all times of the year either with growing plants or with a mulch, this holds moisture in the soil longer and enriches the soil either through mineral mining/ nitrogen fixing by the growing plants or by decomposition of the mulching plants.
Most of the time cover crops are some plant(s) that will fix nitrogen or draw in minerals with a deep root system which then are made available at the surface when you cut the plants off and let them rot on the soil surface (mineral mining).
Any time you create a disturbance ( such as tilling or double digging) the micro flora (bacteria and fungi that are necessary for plant health since they are the actual organisms that allow a plants roots to take in nutrients) tend to die from the disturbance.
This means that tilling is actually not so good for soil from a biological point of view but tilling will redistribute minerals by bringing deep minerals up to the surface where shallow roots can have access to them, the biome (bacteria and fungi) will repopulate over time and thus the cycle will continue.
This is how nature works, and permaculture is a methodology that allows us to mimic how nature works so we can grow what we want growing, even if it was not there previously.

You had stated that you already have crimson clover already growing in the space you want to grow something else. My thought was; Since clover is very beneficial by fixing nitrogen why not just plant through it instead of tilling? I left out cutting the clover first, my mistake and I am sorry about the omission.
Of course if you have tested that soil and it is in need of nitrogen, then tilling under the clover is not a bad idea at all. Coffee grounds added at the same time will do several things, if the grounds have sat around for a week or two they will be full of micro flora which is good for building soil fertility.
If you haven't done a soil test, then you can still till or you can use the No Till Planting Method (chop and drop, plant through the resulting mulch).

You mention onions as a crop, in that case you can use tillage or chop and drop prior to planting the onion sets.
Clover is an annual plant, if you chop it down before it goes to seed, then the only clover that will come back will be germinating seeds already present in the soil.
Clover does not grow well if not in full sun (this is a useful bit of knowledge since it allows you to spread several different plants at the same time (diversification with the least amount of work time spent). The taller plants usually grow faster than the clover will, shading the clover and stunting its growth.
Once those taller plants are harvested or cut down, then the clover plants will get the sunlight they need to thrive and they will experience a growth spurt, at any time after that growth has happened you can either till the clover under or chop and drop it.

Any plant can be used as a cover crop, how it is used is dependent upon what you want that plant to do for your soil. Oats grow taller than most plants and are useful to us in many ways. You can use them for a grain producer (letting them fully mature before cutting), an erosion preventer (they work for this at all stages of growth), a soil builder (chop and drop at any point in their development or harvest the grain heads and chop down the straw that's left). We can do the same with just about any plant including squashes, cucumbers, beans, peas, even daikon radish, turnip, etc.  Potatoes are about the only plant that isn't a good choice for this.

When it comes to cover crops and planting times, Clovers actually do well at any time of year except deep winter, but the seed will sit there and sprout as soon as spring starts coming.
Oats, wheat, barley, triticale, etc. are best planted from the first part of fall and until around a week before the end of fall, they grow to around 6 inches and sit at that height until spring when they grow like crazy.
If you want grain from these plants it will be close to August for harvest.
If you want mulch, you cut it down when you are ready to plant something else, if the grain plant is cut before it sends up the grain head shoots it will make a comeback.
If you spread seed for both clovers and grains at the same time; the grain will sprout and grow thick, holding back the clovers, once the grain is cut the clovers will respond to the new access to sunlight.
At any point, with either or both plants (or any of the other "cover crops") you have the option of turning them into either fertilizer (by turning them under or using chop and drop) or you can turn them into mulch (chop and drop) and let them rot in place.

I have used Hard and Soft Red Winter Wheat, Oats and even Barley for hill side stabilization over winter then chopped it down around June to plant winter squashes in the same area.
I use three different species of clover (Crimson, Dutch White and Yellow) as cover crops, usually I also have an area of these that I let go to seed so the honey bees have access to the flowers.
I chop and drop these plants then plant through the "duff" just about any type of vegetable except carrots, that space gets turned under prior to planting the carrot seeds (I get better germination of the carrot seed that way).

Experiment, that way you will find what works best for you in each space you want gardens.
Don't forget the almost magical properties of spent coffee grounds, they can really help soil recovery when used in tilled places.

I hope this has not made things as clear as mud. I am happy to help in any way I can, just let me know what you need or want to know.

Redhawk
 
Aida Alene
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Thanks for the tips, i actually don't currently have clover in the garden, but want to put in my second seed order with west coast seeds and was trying to decide if i should risk the crimson clover. I think i will give it a go. One thing i cannot seem to find info on is how many days it generally takes, considering cool wet spring planting, for the crimson to get to that cutting stage? I am wondering if it would have enough time to get to cut stage before i wanted to cut and plant veggies in its place? Perhaps tilling would be a good option though because i do in fact have access to coffee ground (my partner is a roaster). So same question applies, would a march planting allow for a may cut down of clover?

I like the idea of seeding clover and oats, so that the clover can take over when the oats are cut down, i'll try that in one of the beds.

If i could get your opinion on one last thing. With transitioning to a no till garden, would it be wise to grow a full season of cover crops that i till into the soil along with other amendments such as coffee grounds and manure in order to get those factors into the soil, and then once the soil is bolstered with mulch and nitrogen, to then transition to no till the following year? I have not tested the soil, but do know that it probably needs a large amount of mulch added to it, as well as nitrogen in some of the dryer, sandier beds that didn't get compost last year.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You would get a fair amount of growth with the clover in 60 days, enough to make it worth while.

We have done a multiple plant cover and dug it in on one bed only. It is a nice short cut for soil that needs more humus fast.

Don't really worry about a soil test, if you watch your plants, they will show you what you might want to add.
One thing I do every spring is take some of my expired multi-vitamins with minerals and dissolve them at a rate of 4 tabs per gallon of water. I then dilute that at one gallon of solution to 10 gallons of water and water the garden bed with that prior to planting (a few days ahead).

Worms are our friends, they will even pull our mulches and other organics into the soil for munching and that gets the goodies where we want them.

Redhawk
 
Aida Alene
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:You would get a fair amount of growth with the clover in 60 days, enough to make it worth while.

We have done a multiple plant cover and dug it in on one bed only. It is a nice short cut for soil that needs more humus fast.

Don't really worry about a soil test, if you watch your plants, they will show you what you might want to add.
One thing I do every spring is take some of my expired multi-vitamins with minerals and dissolve them at a rate of 4 tabs per gallon of water. I then dilute that at one gallon of solution to 10 gallons of water and water the garden bed with that prior to planting (a few days ahead).

Worms are our friends, they will even pull our mulches and other organics into the soil for munching and that gets the goodies where we want them.

Redhawk


thanks for all the tips
 
John Saltveit
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If you follow what Bryant says on this site, you will learn an amazing amount.
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Hans Quistorff
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The white Dutch clover can be persistent and regrow in our climate zone when cut down. Also some fine low growing yellows. So it depends on what kind of cover you want. Live winter cover that feeds the soil organisms, cover that can be dropped for soil shading, cover that can be tilled in for increased organic material, plants that can be maintained lower than the crop for a living soil cover, each has it's place in permaculture. For example growing tall kale plants with clover underneath would allow enriching that bed all summer while still producing a harvestable crop.

I have just had my usual 2 killing freezes for the year so now I will role out my strips and sheets of carpet to substitute for the snow we don't get and allow the worms and soil organisms to go to work on the cover crop. I can plant or transplant right into the residue when I roll the carpet back up.  I roll the carpet back out in the pathways of my high tunnels fro the summer.
 
Shane Kaser
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Crimson clover is weak, and you don't need to worry about it taking over your garden.

In fact, I am rather disappointed in crimson's ability to reseed and persist. Methinks it is a better choice for a high-disturbance system that purchases seed in fall and tills it under in spring.

In my no-till systems, I prefer the endemic white clover as a year-round groundcover in the garden. It cohabitates peacefully with pretty much everything (doesn't climb like vetch), though I might hoe/pull it back from tender little plantlings, but in the good soil it leaves behind, this is an easy task. And it synergizes with high-carbon mulches. Everywhere I see bare soil, I sow white clover seed or transplants.

Good luck,
B
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Here are some interesting things about the different clovers, just incase anyone wants to know.

Crimson clover is fast growing, fast dying, fixes decent amounts of nitrogen for its short spring life span. It will reseed if allowed to but is not persistent (goes away in two or three years if not reseeded by the grower). This clover is good deer and other animal feed.

Red Clover is fast growing slow dying, can be persistent in the right conditions, fixes decent amounts of nitrogen, will die back after 90 days, will die completely if mowed during flowering. This clover is really bad for deer to eat, it contains some alkaloids that harm their gut.

Sweet Yellow clover, this is slower growing, must have mostly sun to flourish (like all clovers) fixes high amounts of nitrogen over the yearly life span and is good fodder for most herbivores. This plant will come back from the root system (acts more perennial than all but white clovers).  All three of these clovers are tall growing.

White (Dutch white) clover, is perennial in nature, low growing, fixes fair amounts of nitrogen, will mine minerals with its deep root system which, if cut will replenish the surface soil.

All of the clovers flower and these flowers are attractive to most pollinators (especially bees and wasps).

Have fun growing your clovers, you can till it in, chop and drop it or in the case of Dutch white, let it be your lawn.

Redhawk
 
Simone Gar
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Here are some interesting things about the different clovers, just incase anyone wants to know.

Crimson clover is fast growing, fast dying, fixes decent amounts of nitrogen for its short spring life span. It will reseed if allowed to but is not persistent (goes away in two or three years if not reseeded by the grower). This clover is good deer and other animal feed.

Red Clover is fast growing slow dying, can be persistent in the right conditions, fixes decent amounts of nitrogen, will die back after 90 days, will die completely if mowed during flowering. This clover is really bad for deer to eat, it contains some alkaloids that harm their gut.

Sweet Yellow clover, this is slower growing, must have mostly sun to flourish (like all clovers) fixes high amounts of nitrogen over the yearly life span and is goof fodder for most herbivores. This plant will come back from the root system (acts more perennial than all but white clovers).  All three of these clovers are tall growing.

White (Dutch white) clover, is perennial in nature, low growing, fixes fair amounts of nitrogen, will mine minerals with its deep root system which, if cut will replenish the surface soil.

All of the clovers flower and these flowers are attractive to most pollinators (especially bees and wasps).

Have fun growing your clovers, you can till it in, chop and drop it or in the case of Dutch white, let it be your lawn.

Redhawk


How aggressive is the red one compared to the white one? I found white one to hard to manage.
 
Hans Quistorff
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How aggressive is the red one compared to the white one? I found white one to hard to manage

As mentioned It grows tall. When it has set seed the tall stalk will hold the seed until the weather knocks it down the the seed is dispersed and grows in the damp conditions. The undisturbed plant may regrow the next season but if cut close to the ground it will usually nt regrow. When mowing with the scythe I try to leave it standing because I want more of it but it doesn't reseed aggressively unless seeded into highly disturbed ground.

Therefore If you desire a high growing large biomass cover crop it is easy to manage.  It is easy to cut or pull when it starts blooming if you want to prevent reseeding. We used to buy it as hay for our goats and they would replant it in their droppings. When growing in the field they preferred to just brows the blossoms and tops.
 
Marco Banks
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Bryant RedHawk is a rock-star.

I've been doing this for quite some time and I read my weight in gardening/biology/permaculture books every year.  But EVERY TIME I read one of your posts, I learn something.

WHEN you publish your next book (first book?) I want to get a signed first edition from you.

Thank you for all the time and patience you show with people on this board.  The world is a better place because of the knowledge you are dropping in this forum on a regular basis.
 
Crt Jakhel
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Shane Kaser wrote:Crimson clover is weak, and you don't need to worry about it taking over your garden.
In fact, I am rather disappointed in crimson's ability to reseed and persist. Methinks it is a better choice for a high-disturbance system that purchases seed in fall and tills it under in spring.
In my no-till systems, I prefer the endemic white clover as a year-round groundcover in the garden. It cohabitates peacefully with pretty much everything (doesn't climb like vetch), though I might hoe/pull it back from tender little plantlings, but in the good soil it leaves behind, this is an easy task. And it synergizes with high-carbon mulches. Everywhere I see bare soil, I sow white clover seed or transplants.


All these things are true in my experience as well.
 
O. Donnelly
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Most of the extension literature I've read on Crimson clover seems to indicate its best used as a winter cover crop down south where winters are mild. What is the best way to use it up north?  When would I plant it in New York zone 5b and when would I kill it?  how do honey bees like it?
 
Crt Jakhel
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I'm in 6a (although way accross the ocean). We plant it from mid-August to mid-September. Better early than late to allow for it getting nicely established. (Although it's not a rare event that CC looks nearly dead when sown late by the time winter comes - and then bounces back strongly to make a beautiful flowering field in the spring.)

It is in flower approximately between 3rd week of April and 3rd week of May (the interval can move around a week or two depending on the particular year's weather patterns).

When it's done flowering it gets ploughed under (it's still a conventionally managed field). It would be possible to wait and collect seed but that would take another 3-4 weeks and it would be tricky to get the next planting started because the summer heat and drought might have already started by that time.

In my experience the bees love it - in fact in 2016 our hives were saved by it when black locust and most everything else froze (crimson clover didn't although it had already started flowering by the time a -4 C / 25 F night came around on April 26; elaeagnus umbellata flowers survived as well).

I also very much like CC as a winter cover for garden beds to help in... uh... fluffifying the soil




 
O. Donnelly
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I've read that it winter kills in this climate. Anyone have success with it as a winter annual here?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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O. Donnelly wrote:Most of the extension literature I've read on Crimson clover seems to indicate its best used as a winter cover crop down south where winters are mild. What is the best way to use it up north?  When would I plant it in New York zone 5b and when would I kill it?  how do honey bees like it?


Crimson clover is a cool weather plant, plant it when you would plant out your first brassicas or even a couple of weeks before. For a fall planting do it just as temperatures are starting to get down to the low 80's to mid 70's, this will speed up germination.
For all clovers, except Dutch White, cutting as it is in bloom will kill it and not allow regrowth. Dutch white is a perennial that can be scalped and still regrow since it will come back from the root system.
Dutch White is a low grower (tallest is around 8 inches at the bloom) which is why it has been used for lawn areas.

Redhawk
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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