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Cover crops to use for stabilizing ditch

 
phil Johnson
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Hello. I've been reviewing the material here in this post and I would like your thoughts, experiences and critiques.  I would like to use cover crops to use in a ditch to eliminate weeds and grasses. It over grows and the maintenance in and of itself can be difficult. The location is in zone 6. In east central michigan. The ditch actually runs to Lake Huron. In the Spring it stays pretty wet and then grows over through late spring and summer. I have read that a mixture is best. Understood. So what mixture would consist of wet tolerant as well as heat tolerant for later on in July and August?  Are the seeds mixed togather? Broadcast seeded or raked in? Seeded in spring or fall? I would like something that will be a benefit to the environment as well as possible edible but def not a requirement . I would plant strawberries if they would displace the weeds and grasses. Thoughts?
 
Casie Becker
pollinator
Posts: 1182
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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What are the particular challenges you face that make maintaining it difficult?

Is this something that needs to look manicured like a suburban yard or something more rural?

Is this something small that is managed by human labor, or something huge that takes industrial equipment?

The top four options in this article https://dengarden.com/landscaping/Low-Maintenance-Groundcovers-That-Suppress-Weeds are heavy bloomers which would at least support pollinators. Anything that supports insect supports the next level of predators (birds, amphibians, snakes, lizards, ect)
You might also find good options by going on nature walks in your area and gathering plant divisions, seeds, and cuttings of plants that have the characteristics you're looking for.
 
phil Johnson
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Thank you for your response. The ditch has to be weed whacked/mowed and though I hire that done mostly I would like some thing more maintenance friendly and provides a benefit. I recently received a hive ( that I will be building along with a second). Now with that on the horizon I would like to plant items that my friends will pollinate. Several of the plants listed on the link indicate good for pollinators. I have brush that is an eyesore so having pollinators, low maintenance and visually attractive location is ideal. Any other suggestions? Those being considered are Aurea, Mazus,Phlox stolonifera and Red Creeping Thyme. I will have to find a means to remove the brush and plant the above. I would like to add a little more to the mix. Feedback on any of the above is welcomed and appreciated. Would clover be recommended? Are the seeds mixed together? Broadcast seeded or raked in? Seeded in spring or fall? I see some use plugs in the spring. Should it be tilled?

Thank you in advance.

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Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 677
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Would clover be recommended? Are the seeds mixed together? Broadcast seeded or raked in? Seeded in spring or fall? I see some use plugs in the spring. Should it be tilled? 

White Clover would be recommended because it will hold the soil along the road edge. It is low growing so needs less trimming. The blossoms are most attractive to bees both domestic and native. The clover could be mixes with a wild flower mix for variety. The condition of the soil in the foreground of the pictures would indicate that in that condition it could be broadcast and slightly raked in.  Broadcast some in the bottom of the ditch as it begins to dry out with maybe some lawn clippings or the trimmer debris.  Trim the road edge and bottom of the ditch before the rain starts but leave the back edge to go to seed and trim it in the winter.
When ever you pull out brush sow seed in the disturbed soil.  Eventually the ditch will become an attractive clover wild flower meadow. The only other low growing plant that I am familiar with that will tolerate the flooding of the ditch is buttercup but it is considered invasive because it spreads by surface runners But I tolerate it in some locations because it is shallow rooted and can be raked out.
 
Jeff Reiland
Posts: 66
Location: Central Iowa
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bike forest garden hunting
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A few elderberry on the inside of the bank might be a good addition.  Pollinator benefit, stabilize soil, and an edible/medicinal berry (and flowers too) that makes a great pancake syrup.  They do grow ~6-10' tall so take that into consideration.  Easily propagated from cuttings if you can find a patch nearby.
 
Shane Kaser
Posts: 15
Location: Portland, United States
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Your problem is about maintenance scheme as much as it is about plant choice.

You basically have two choices: woody hedgerow or grassy meadow.

You mentioned that you didn't like the "weeds" overgrowing, which leads me to believe you would prefer the relatively lower height of a grass-dominated system. HOWEVER, grass-dominated systems rely on REGULAR disturbance (mowing/grazing/fire/etc.), so super-key to this system is making your ditch accessible to your mowing equipment. If you can, grade the transitions so they are gentle enough to get a mower in and out during the dry season. Otherwise you will be on foot with a scythe/string-trimmer. Or do you have a flock of sheep?

For woody hedgerows, you either accept the tall density/diversity of plant material as your main defense against weeds, and/or you focus on trees/shrubs that respond readily to coppicing, and you whack it all down every winter or two (with your goats?). I am not super familiar with your region's plants, but here, good choices are shrubby dogwood, willow, alder, maple, oak, elderberry, hazel, cherry, apple, chestnut, locust...

There is no perfect, zero-maintenance solution, no matter what your plant selection (unless you're okay with wilderness!)

Good luck,
B

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