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New to cover crops looking for ideas.  RSS feed

 
Travis Stumpf
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So I've convinced my neighbor who lets me plant a 50x30 foot area of a 100x60 foot garden in his backyard to go no till and start doing cover crops. In the next month or so I need to come up with a diverse set of cover crop seed that will appease long time "conventional" gardeners.

I'm looking for a low growing, mostly edible, balanced cover crop good for breaking up and amending muddy acidic clay soil. The reason for some thing low growing is to not draw too much attention to the plot since it is on a main road in the middle of a small town. And I would like a mostly edible cover for winter and early spring food crops and it should make it easier to plant my annual garden into come spring.

My short list so far is:
Clover(what variety though?)
Daikon Radish
Spinach
Leeks
Garlic
Kale
Carrots
Winter Rye

I'd like to do some grains for grain spawn for my outdoor mushroom beds and plug spawn for logs. I'm on the fence though about how it may look to the neighbors, but then again it looks better than bare dirt all winter. Or hell maybe even something real showy to get people looking and asking questions. 

So any advice on what varieties I should grow? Fully open to suggestions. Best online source for seed? Would love to source  them from a fellow Permie member if possible. Temps can get down to -10-15f for a short time later in winter. I'm in central Nebraska Zone 5b. The plot already has a good 3-4 inches of hardwood mulch I put on this year and have a steady supply of grass clippings available to me. 

 
Travis Johnson
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Winter rye sounds like your best choice by what you describe, but it is not exactly short by any means. It does have a nice deep green color though even in the dead of winter that I find attractive. It has the pesky problem though of dropping its seed and regrowing if you do not deal with it soon enough. I also am not sure how much nitrogen it returns to the soil however compared to red clover. That is a lot higher than Winter Rye, but then it dies off in winter too.

My preferred list for cover crops is fairly short:

For summer fodder and cover cropping, I love OATS! Quick to come up, provides feed for my sheep, and makes a wonderful green manure
For winter cover cropping I love winter rye. It works and the seed is cheap!
For long term cover crops where I am concerned about the most nitrogen fixing I can get, it is red clover.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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My short list so far is:
Clover(what variety though?)
Daikon Radish
Spinach
Leeks
Garlic
Kale
Carrots
Winter Rye
  Good short list but the leeks and garlic are not really going to do any soil building. I would add Rape to that list.

In the clover world it mostly depends on how tall you want it to grow. The tall clovers are; red, scarlet, yellow (sweet). The short clovers are; Kopu II White Clover, Dutch White Clover, New Zealand White Clover, and S-1 White Clover- Adapted to Southern States.

Rye comes in grass form and cereal grain form, for soil building cereal rye is the one to choose then Alfalfa(Lucerne) is also a good choice for really deep, mineral mining root systems. Oats are great, barley is great too.

The Tall clovers are far shorter lived than the white, short growing clovers, Dutch White is used for clover lawns because it is perennial.

Redhawk
 
chip sanft
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You might think about turnips, too -- good for soil building, at least some varieties are tough, and both greens and root are edible (though if the roots get fibrous, I don't find them palatable). For cheap green matter, you might also check out buckwheat, though I don't think its greens are considered edible anymore. It doesn't grow too high and it gets a nice white flower on it. Finally, I think squash can also be helpful, just because they'll get so big they make a lot of organic matter, and if you eat squash anyway you get the seeds for free. Just dry em out, toss them among the other stuff and hoe them in a bit. And they'll appease conventional gardeners, though they may sniff at your (potentially ) low initial yields, not knowing you're building soil.
 
Todd Parr
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Now that I have started seed-saving in earnest (thanks Joseph), I've been adding just about anything I have a lot of extra seeds from.  I used to use mainly tillage radish to break up my ground, along with some peas and vetch.  This year I have one area where I emptied all my old seeds, 30 or 40 varieties of veggies, and it is growing gang-busters.  I've been eating odds and ends from it for a couple weeks now, and will have a lot more things soon.  It has nearly everything you can think of planted in it, and far from the veggies competing for resources, they all seem to be growing like crazy.  I guess my point is, don't worry overly much about what you plant, just plant lots of different things and you should have most of the bases covered.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Excellent news Todd. You seem to be proving the law of diversity. please keep me informed about how they do over the season, thanks.

Redhawk
 
Travis Stumpf
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Thank you for the info everyone. I really appreciate it. Now to start looking for sources. Are there any permie preffered sources or is there anyone willing to let me purchase seed from them? I'd rather support a fellow permaculturist than a random company.

What is the best way to apply it? Just free cast? Or can I use a seed/fertilizer spreader? Any specific ratios of seed I should keep in mind for optimum use? Mid August is the best time to plant covers correct? For Zone 5B anyway.
 
Travis Johnson
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We have Johnny Selected Seeds here in Maine and they sell some of what is listed. They are close to me so I know the company well, though have no affiliation with them. They are one of the biggest employee owned companies in Maine, but additionally these employees have farms of their own. Since this area is the Permicultural Capital of the World, most are Permicultural based farms.

It is still a business I know, but I can verify personally it is an ethical one.

 
Travis Stumpf
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Okay I've heard Johnnies seed mentioned several times on here. I will look into them.
 
Todd Parr
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Excellent news Todd. You seem to be proving the law of diversity. please keep me informed about how they do over the season, thanks.

Redhawk


I posted a picture of the area in this threadCover crop pic  I'll try to remember to take a picture of it as it goes.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Yes, I saw that photo, simply wonderful variety and vigorous growth as well.
 
Marco Banks
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Travis,

Have you watched any of Gabe Browne's videos?  He farms in Bismark ND, close to you.  He does a bunch of good stuff with cover crops.  If you YouTube him, you'll find all sorts of presentations he's done to farmers all over the country.  In his powerpoint presentation, he's got a list of the cover crops he uses.  If you freeze the video at that point, you could just write down the names of the crops he's using as a starting point.

He always says, "Don't write this down, as this is what we use in our area.  You'll have to find what works best for your area."  Well -- OK.  But using his list in your first attempt would seem to be smart. 

Once you click on his videos and watch a few of them, YouTube will bring up a bunch of other guys who do cover-cropping as well.  There is some guy from Ohio who is highly regarded.  Ohio's climate might be more similar to yours that North Dakota's climate.

Anyhow, I'd start there if I were you.  Gabe is entertaining and very intelligent.  He knows what he's talking about.
 
Travis Stumpf
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Marco Banks wrote:Travis,

Have you watched any of Gabe Browne's videos?  He farms in Bismark ND, close to you.  He does a bunch of good stuff with cover crops.  If you YouTube him, you'll find all sorts of presentations he's done to farmers all over the country.  In his powerpoint presentation, he's got a list of the cover crops he uses.  If you freeze the video at that point, you could just write down the names of the crops he's using as a starting point.

He always says, "Don't write this down, as this is what we use in our area.  You'll have to find what works best for your area."  Well -- OK.  But using his list in your first attempt would seem to be smart. 

Once you click on his videos and watch a few of them, YouTube will bring up a bunch of other guys who do cover-cropping as well.  There is some guy from Ohio who is highly regarded.  Ohio's climate might be more similar to yours that North Dakota's climate.

Anyhow, I'd start there if I were you.  Gabe is entertaining and very intelligent.  He knows what he's talking about.


Yes I have. I've watched all of his videos. His operation is very cool. He's the one who really gave me the idea of doing cover crops in my garden. His knowledge on soil health and diversity is great.
 
Jim Fry
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I like Dutch White Clover. It's a good cover crop and it also makes great pathways. Leave the clover in the areas were you plan to walk, plow or turn it under where you want to plant. D. W. Clover stays short, but you can mow the paths occasionally without harm, and use the clippings for mulch or rabbit food.
 
Travis Johnson
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A month ago (June 15th) I planted 10 acres into what is a nice mix of cover crop, nitrogen fixers, and permanent field. It was:

6 pounds of Timothy per acre (for longevity)
6 pounds of Red Clover per acre for longevity and nitrogen fixation
50 Pounds of oats for nitrogen fixation and weed control

With the red clover I tilled in, and the oats and red clover this year, I should be at or above 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

Here are some before and after photos taken from the same spot. Pretty good growth for 30 days worth of time I think. I am definitely happy with the result.

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DSCN5076.JPG
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Travis Johnson
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It really cannot be seen in the photos, but the oats are about a foot high.
 
Lee Kochel
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I would also recommend the youtube site:     I am organic gardening  .  He shows a lot of videos on how to use cover crops and planting into them.
 
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