I am in North Alabama. Is there a cover crop (multi-species) that I can put down on my raised bed veggie garden now? I realize it is late.
I tilled in the wood chips 2 summers ago and last summer crop was very feeble to non-existent. I found out about nitrogen getting tied up with the carbon of the chips. I expect this year to be better since the chips in he soil seem to have broken down.
I have drip irrigation lines every 5 feet and a fresh layer of chips I put down last summer (on top this time). I have dutch white clover and yellow clover and I also have Alfalfa. Should I add turnips or other?
I hope to soon have a detailed soil test result so I can add some organic remedies. I also have some fungi mix and will make compost tea.
Are there any recommendations?
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." —Albert Einstein
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
I ordered 3 lbs of hairy vetch to put down as a cover crop in various areas. I sowed all of the seeds by hand last week because I didn't get around to it. I'm in zone 6. I did a little research and this is what I came up with. It's a game of chance. You want the seeds to stay dormant until it stays somewhat warm. If it warms up too early, the seeds will germinate, and get hammered if the temps drop again. I'm not familiar with your weather so I can't give you any advice about that.
There are farmers in North Dakota using this method because it's easier to get tractors into the field. I also broadcast a pound of Rye. That may not make it. Check out this article on the Rodale website.
I have Comfrey, marigolds, bush beans, clover, wildflower and etc growing right in with my tomatoes and veg. My tomatoes were hemmed in with flowers and beans this year and I had the most vigorous tomatoes to date. If you plant something to close and you think it's hurting a plant yank it and put it into the compost pile. The one thing that didn't do well in this medley was strawberries. They were healthy but didn't produce because they weren't getting any sun. You can alway prune stuff back or yank it. i It's been my experience that if the sun is there and the root patterns are compatible things grow better with close planting.
You will want to chop down the cover crop if you are using it to amend the soil. If I have something like clover planted I may just plant into it and use it as a ground cover. If you don't want bare soil where you are planting you may want something like clover. I haven't tried leaving vetch or something like that in place so I don't know. I figure if there is enough sun for what you are planting you would be ok clearing an area big enough to plant. Some of the larger cover crops may give too much competition. I don't know this from experience as I haven't tried it. I do know that stuff grows in clover.
Various seed companies offer cover crop mixes that work well for cool season planting. I've got about 10 lbs that I'll be planting tomorrow and Saturday. I have no affiliation with this company, but this is where I order my seeds, as well as the microbial inoculant needed to help the legumes fix nitrogen. Here is a link to the cover crop mix I build from:
I buy about 10 to 20 lbs of it at a time, and then I add a bunch of my own seeds to it as well. I'll throw weird stuff into the mix like Tansy, tillage radish, or a bag of black-eyed peas from the grocery store. It's the inoculant that I need from them, as my soil doesn't naturally have the right bacteria needed for nitrogen fixation. Hopefully, in another couple years, I won't need to order the inoculant -- it will be in my soil in sufficient quantities.
No, you don't need to mow it all down --- at least not initially. You can cut down small areas and then plant your seeds or transplant your plants. Then, as the plants continue to grow, you just hack back the cover crops that are crowding your garden crops. For plants like watermelon or other vining veggies, I use newspaper to cover the cover-crops as they slowly work their way out into the cover crops. That was you don't disturb the soil, you keep all that N underground where it needs to be, you bury that biomass under newspaper (Back to Eden style), and it's not much work at all. For tall, leggy plants like corn or okra, I'll make a space in the cover crop for the initial row, but as the okra grows, it'll outcompete the cover crops. Eventually, I'll just stomp them down into place between the garden rows.
Vetch (purple or hairy) is a climber. It's the one exception. I tend to yank it out of the ground, or it will tangle up everything as it grows up the corn like a trellis.
Best of luck.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf