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planting clover and garlic question  RSS feed

 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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I want to plant clover as a cover crop.  In the past I have used white clover and it grew into a tight mat that I could barely get a shovel into if I wanted to plant something.

Is this normal?  I want to plant something that will add nutrients to the soil but don't have much experience in this area - I amend my soil with leaves, compost, grass clippings, my chickens bedding, etc. but I would like to get into the living mulches.

I plant garlic every Sept/Oct and would like to have a cover crop that will add nutrients.  My winters here are mild, clover will grow throughout the winter.  Any suggestions?
 
John Polk
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Garlic is a root crop.  You do not want anything competing with it for root space near the surface.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Thank you, I wont put anything on top of them.
 
John Polk
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Once they are up, I would think a good mulch would be OK.  It wouldn't rob the roots.
Just remember that they do need some winter chill to go dormant, so don't pile it up so high that they stay cozy.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Actually, my garlic doesn't go dormant in the winter; I plant in Sept/Oct according to moon signs.  Then all winter they just keep getting bigger and bigger.

  I plant three different types of garlic but am transitioning to mostly elephant garlic (actually a type of leek as you probably already know).

It takes all winter and then through to about the beginning of June for them to get to soft ball size.  And then it starts smelling really good around here.

  We only eat a third of what is harvested so that I can get a bigger crop each year.  This fall the garlic will probably take over all of my existing beds.  It looks like the only window for me to use a living mulch to nourish the soil is from mid June to mid September.  I could plant some beans.
 
Willy Kerlang
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I think you and I are on the same track.  I am growing garlic for the second year, and I am also hoping to incrase my crop every year until I have several hundred plants.  because I've been using seaweed as mulch it has done really really well.  I live in Nova Scotia, so we have pretty cold winters.  But I am also leaning towards living mulch myself this year.  The thing about garlic is that it is a pretty heavy feeder.  It needs a lot of nutrients, and those seem to be well supplied by seaweed, although I'm sure there are plenty of better-informed people here who could tell you exactly what it needs.  What I was planning on doing differently this year was scattering the garlic greens back on the bed sometime after harvesting.  The only issue I see with that is that garlic keeps longer if you don't cut the greens off, so I will want to keep them on as long as possible.  So I'm not sure how I'm going to work around this.

In terms of a cover crop, you might also consider buckwheat.  When this dies off or gets cut it makes GREAT straw, which is one benefit you do not get from clover.  It does make sense not to plant cover crops that are going to compete, but if you stagger planting so that you sow the cover only after the garlic is well established then maybe it will work out.  Paul Wheaton posted a video very recently of his friend in Missoula who uses clover as a cover crop and she had the same concern, but she does mention how they dealt with this, so you might want to watch that video too.
 
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