What are the pros and cons of either? Presumably you can get access to either in large quantities and are planning to put fruit and nut trees on the site, blackberry bushes, and maybe let chickens/ducks/other birds in there.
Can you do both? How would you have both mulch and cover crops? Maybe mix mulch and manure and plant cover crops right in the mulch?
I do both. I haven't started my food forest yet, but in my annual gardens I use mulch and then toss out cover crop seeds. I like to lightly touch/rake the mulch so the seeds aren't sitting on top of it. Then I chop and drop the cover crop with a rice knife as it interferes/competes with my garden plants. I've also begun this with my swales, I'm just not putting a lot of effort into it yet until I get trees planted, and consistent water.
My Food Forest - Mile elevation. Zone 6a. Southern Idaho <--I moved in year two...unfinished...probably has cattle on it.
What I've seen often that seems to work well is a ring of mulch around each tree with cover crop in the alleys. Other folks are big on the 'guild' idea with trees which involves a variety of plants right around each tree. I think the benefits of mulch are a cleaner floor that allows you to find and potentially collect fallen fruit/nuts as well as soil water retention. The benefits of cover crop are similar water retention, food source for livestock, and the diversity of soil life that comes with a diversity of roots in the soil.
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