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Cover Crop Question

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Cover Crop Question

Post  joe23 on 5/31/2012, 8:53 pm

So i was curious about this, because it isn't talked about in the book. If i've been growing beans or peas during the summer is it ok to work the crops into the soil once they've produced my food? This would be similar to a cover crop i guess, but i planted the crops to get the produce...not for fertilizing...but figured since they're in there, why not re-work them back into the soil to add in some extra nutrients? Anyone done this in their SFG before?

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  camprn on 5/31/2012, 9:15 pm

I would compost the debris. One reason is to avoid disease, the other is that there is no immediate benefit from doing so, because it has to take time to break down. I take completed compost and add that before planting again.

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Can

Post  CharlesB on 5/31/2012, 9:31 pm

Composting them is best. Next best is to chop them up small and leave the pieces on top of the soil to break down. Green mulch.

Like Camprn said working it in to the soil will take a long time to break it down.

If you have bad soil it is good to do this but if you have anything close to a Mel's Mix type mix it is a super charged, light soil. Won't need the organic matter right away so better to compost it outside of your growing medium. If you have a worm bed you could chop it up to put in there as well.

I have a bin that turned in to a worm bin on its own outside. Just loaded it up with a bunch of extra lettuce I picked to feed the worms. I need the worm castings more than I need more lettuce right now.

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  gurgi1970 on 11/20/2012, 7:52 pm

So is it best to have a cover crop in a SFG? I mentioned earlier this year about my not so great soil conditions and to amend it for next year, I need to add compost and perhaps some peat moss/vermullite to it. I put in a Rye Cover Crop from Burpee this year to try and boast the nutrients that are in garden now.

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  camprn on 11/20/2012, 7:59 pm

If you follow the method described by Mel Bartholomew in the 'All New Square Foot Gardening' book (2006) there is no use of soil. There is no dirt in Mel's mix and cover crops are not needed.

Amending existing gardens with the same components Mel uses in his mix will improve your soil. Compost is an ideal amendment. Green manures or cover crops are a good tool in building up tired soil in row gardens as the crop must be turned under and the best way to do that is by mechanical means. Cover crops are not recommended in the SFG.

Here is a great thread.
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7452-mel-s-mix-how-strong-is-your-backbone

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  Unmutual on 11/20/2012, 8:24 pm

@joe23 wrote:So i was curious about this, because it isn't talked about in the book. If i've been growing beans or peas during the summer is it ok to work the crops into the soil once they've produced my food? This would be similar to a cover crop i guess, but i planted the crops to get the produce...not for fertilizing...but figured since they're in there, why not re-work them back into the soil to add in some extra nutrients? Anyone done this in their SFG before?

If I were inoculating my legumes, I'd probably leave the root systems in the ground just to build up beneficial fungus in the mix so I wouldn't need to use inoculates. Other than that, composting outside of the box seems to be the best way.

Using chop and drop in my area is just an invitation for diseases(unfortunately) because of the humidity, though I should probably experiment with it(different times of the year for example, but sheet mulching seems to work out fine...not that it helps my SFG). Luckily any weed or compost plant goes through my chickens first(they love comfrey), worms second. Bulk stuff goes in the pile, like when I'm pulling up the solanacaea's at the end of the season(that's a lot of plant matter, especially when growing indeterminate tomatoes!).

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  camprn on 11/20/2012, 8:40 pm

Unmutual, when you took the SFG Certification course, what did they say about cover crops?

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  landarch on 11/20/2012, 11:52 pm

I purchased a packet of cover crop (peas and oats) as a cover crop for this fall, but really had no use for it as I did a fall garden in every square available after the summer garden was done.

If you use Mels Mix and refresh squares with compost as directed, a cover crop may be more work than what it's worth as you have to prep for spring planting (either pull the cover crop or till it under when it's not completely broken down).

If one still desires a cover crop, the peas and oats mix was recommended to me because it is supposed to be really easy to till through...other cover crops may work but form a really thick cover and/or root mass that is difficult to break through with a shovel in the spring. Mels Mix with no cover crop can be easily worked with the fingers to prep for seeding.

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  Unmutual on 11/21/2012, 6:54 am

@camprn wrote:Unmutual, when you took the SFG Certification course, what did they say about cover crops?

I don't remember discussing cover crops actually(maybe it was something brief like, you don't need to do it). You're getting all the nutrition from the compost, so you don't need them.

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  llama momma on 11/21/2012, 9:01 am

@Unmutual wrote:
@camprn wrote:Unmutual, when you took the SFG Certification course, what did they say about cover crops?

I don't remember discussing cover crops actually(maybe it was something brief like, you don't need to do it). You're getting all the nutrition from the compost, so you don't need them.


When I took the course recently there was no discussion. I wonder if Mel's new book adresses cover crops?

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  quiltbea on 11/21/2012, 12:52 pm

The roots of peas and beans are great to leave right there in the soil to improve it. The roots are better used intact than composted. That is where the nitrogen nodules reside. You can cut the plants down to the soil line in the fall and compost those tops but leave the roots. The soil will be rich in natural nitrogen from the pea/bean roots for the next crop of something else. Yes, rotate those crops.

As for cover crops per se......it depends on the cover crop. In raised beds we don't till or plow so using any deep-rooted cover crop or one that lives thru the winter, can make lots of hard work for the gardener since you will be hoeing, raking, chopping out those new plants and roots by hand. Been there done that and don't ever want to do that again (I sowed rye grass one winter, ugh).

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cover crops part 1

Post  ThaiGer on 11/21/2012, 2:14 pm

happy hi Cover crops using is difficult and nobody can say:"This is the best one of success!"
Two things I give to think about (it'only MY knowledge!)
1.Cover crops, such as fall rye, crimson clover, buckwheat and others are easy to grow. When they are digested by soil microorganisms they restore organic matter and nutrient levels in the soil. Because they are sown thickly, they also help to outcompete weeds. Cover crops also control erosion from heavy winter rains, and help prevent the soil from compacting over winter.
Depending on your growing region, some cover crops will die during the coldest weather. The crop residue is still a valued supplement in the spring.
What cover crops should you plant?
Seed companies sell cover crop seeds as individual crops or as mixes of grasses and legumes. Common annual cover crops suitable for fall planting are:
Hardy legumes
These nitrogen-fixing crops provide a fertilizer as well as organic matter. Planted in fall, they grow slowly until late winter when growth speeds up. Legume crops may not mature until May in some regions. Cut down these cover crops in spring before they go to flower, then till them under.
Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa): Grows to 2 feet high; hardy to -15° F. Hairy vetch is considered the hardiest annual legume. Vetch tolerates poor soil, and matures late. Sow 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Field pea (Pisum arvense and P. sativus): Grows 6 inches to several feet tall. Field peas are hardy to 10 to 20°F. ‘Austrian Winter’ pea is low growing and late maturing. ‘Magnus’ grows to 5 feet. Sow 2 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum): Grows 1 to 2 feet high. Berseem clover is hardy to 20° F. Produces high amounts of nitrogen. Sow 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Crimson clover (T. incarnatum): Grows 18 inches high, and is hardy to 10° F. Crimson clover matures late and fixes less nitrogen than other clovers. Sow 1/2 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. If allowed to go to seed, Crimson clover can become an invasive weed....

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  camprn on 11/21/2012, 2:18 pm

I maintain that cover crops are a great thing for row gardens, not so the Square Foot Garden.... how much work do you really want to do?

Compost is the miracle answer.

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cover crops part 2

Post  ThaiGer on 11/21/2012, 2:21 pm

...Two point of my view I want to tell you.
Think about Bokashi EMs for enrich your soil for the spring (sorry I have not experiences about summer or winter). But some of my partnerships with another gardeners in Europe or Australia gave me any inputs.Turn under, or smother, green manure cover crops.
‘Green manure’ cover crops are commonly planted between crop rotations, or over winter, to add organic materials back into the soil and provide a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. These cover crops should be turned under before they go to seed, and several weeks before the bed is replanted.
Turning under a cover crop can be done several ways. You can cut the crop close to soil level using a grass whip, a shears or weedeater. Save the cuttings for the compost or for use as mulch. The remaining stubble can then be chopped and turned under using a hoe. For gardeners growing in raised beds, however, using the hoe can be awkward near the sides of the bed because you don’t want to cut into the bed sides or push the sides outward by the digging action. This can be accomplished though with some care.
Some gardeners do not bother turning under the stubble because it’s less work and they don’t want to disturb the soil. Instead, they plant in between the stubble. The new seedling roots will break down the cover crop root clumps over time.
Another method for turning under cover crops, which puts no stress on the sides of the raised bed, is to ‘smother’ the cover crop by laying down a thick layer of mulch and covering the mulch with black plastic sheeting. This method has the advantage of breaking down the cover crop without having to cut it down or deal with the stubble, and the underlying soil remains undisturbed. This method, however, takes time. In sunny weather, which increases the heat beneath the sheeting, it may take 2 – 3 weeks to effectively smother the cover crop. In cool weather this will take longer. happy hi Best luck and regards, Thaiger (I hope you vorgive me the large letter. But you see...it's difficult...)P.S.:my number 1 is selfmade organic fertilizer enriched with EM.

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  RoOsTeR on 11/21/2012, 2:27 pm

I maintain that cover crops are a great thing for row gardens, not so the Square Foot Garden.... how much work do you really want to do?

Compost is the miracle answer.
+1

This topic has been moved to the NON-Square Foot Gardening forum.
Cover crops are not part of the Square Foot Gardening method. Mel made things nice and simple for this intensive gardening method. No cover crops needed!


Last edited by RoOsTeR on 11/21/2012, 2:29 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  camprn on 11/21/2012, 2:27 pm

ThaiGer, do these other gardeners have square foot gardens or row gardens?

Sowing, cutting, chopping, turning, I don't want to do all that work and I do not have to in a square foot garden. Besides, there is simply not enough room for all that extra activity, nor are my squares that frequently empty of growing food.

With the SFG system, for me if it is warm enough to grow a green manure, it is warm enough to grow food.

Think outside the row garden my friend. What a Face

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topic move

Post  ThaiGer on 11/21/2012, 2:34 pm

'''the moving is 100% correct,sorry I've only answered ths topic... Embarassed ThaiGer

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  Turan on 11/21/2012, 3:49 pm

The place I could see using a ground cover in SFG would be a bed that is going to be planted in squash or tomatoes or cole crops. Things that use a lot of space. The cover crop could make a top mulch if timed correctly. I have not worked this out yet, I think it might be easier to figure out in longer growing seasons. With the right choice of plants by the time you pull the main crop the cover/mulch crop would be sheet composted.

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re-post cover crops

Post  ThaiGer on 11/21/2012, 11:37 pm

happy hi Dear gardener,the SFG practice combines any concepts from other organic gardeningmethods (not in the negative sense), including raised beds . You can spread a few inches of compost over the bed, and cover with mulch.The mulch protects the soil over the winter conditions, while the compost adds nutrients or, you can skip the compost and mulch and plant cover crops. Many (EM-)friends of mine cultivate raised beds, because they are urban gardener.By that I learned many about cover crops. It's the true, when you have small large place you have to look what is the most effective method and what requirees the minimun of work and cost (SFG). I want only explain my opinion of cover crops no explicid about SFG method. By the way, my garden is not a row garden - a wild garden - which does not exclude that I have a bit knowledge of any kinds of organic practices.
Best luck and regards, ThaiGer. thanks

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  Turan on 11/25/2012, 6:43 pm

In my old SFG book there is a short section on cover crops. He is suggesting sprinkling a little bit on an annual grass (winter rye given as an example) on each square as it is emptied in the fall for the season. His reasoning is it is an old method of adding nitrogen rich material to soil and looks pretty. What he is referencing is that nitrogen leaches out of soil (MM or what ever) quite rapidly. To maintain and even add to the nitrogen left at the end of the season you need to use it, and that is done with a cover crop. Another benefit is that empty soil (MM or whatever) is an open invitation to Ma Nature to plant there, she hates empty space, so it is better to have what you want there rather than what ever comes up.

I, personally, have not experimented with cover crops. Just thinking about it.

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  llama momma on 11/25/2012, 7:14 pm

The square foot method really eliminates the 2 extra steps of planting a cover crop and having to turn it under. The end of fall gardening for me is pull up the plants, throw in compost and cover up the garden with a tarp. Come Spring I might add more compost if I feel like it, or just pull back the tarp and begin planting seeds or transplants. Just finished up sfg year #2 and I don't see a need for any cover crops. Just my 2 cents. Wink

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  RoOsTeR on 11/25/2012, 7:18 pm

100% in agreement with you on that one LM.
Keep it simple!

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Re: Cover Crop Question

Post  Turan on 11/25/2012, 7:53 pm

Up here it is probably moot. I just do everything in such a fast spurt there are no open squares needing something in them. If I lived in the tropics I suspect it could be a very useful way to manage the empty squares as I juggle the succession plantings and the rainy season etc.

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