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If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

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If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  mariana1517 on 4/23/2015, 5:54 pm

Due to an unexpectedly very busy summer, it is now looking like I will not have time to take care of my beds this year. I have 3 beds, 4' x 6' each (on the ground, not elevated), and all are filled with Mel's Mix.

I was originally thinking of just covering each box with a heavy tarp weighted around all the edges to keep weed seeds out and preserve the mix, but I got to thinking that maybe a thick cover crop might be better. If so, what sort of cover crop would be best, and should I till it in at the end of the season or pull it out?

Many thanks for your thoughts!
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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  Kelejan on 4/23/2015, 6:26 pm

My first thought was a mulch of some kind. Leaves or grass, but something that was alive and can give nourishment to the soil.
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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  Turan on 4/23/2015, 8:54 pm

I would plant an annual green manure crop like buckwheat or field peas.  You then have the choice in the fall of either composting in a pile or leaving to make a mulch to plant through in the following spring. 
Or I would heavily seed in an annual flower mix.

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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  quiltbea on 4/23/2015, 11:30 pm

Just make sure you plant a cover crop that dies in the winter or you'll be fighting that cover crop come spring.  I had that problem one year.
Now I just add compost instead of cover crops.
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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  yolos on 4/24/2015, 11:15 am

@Turan wrote:I would plant an annual green manure crop like buckwheat or field peas.  You then have the choice in the fall of either composting in a pile or leaving to make a mulch to plant through in the following spring. 
Or I would heavily seed in an annual flower mix.

I agree with the Buckwheat or field peas in the summer.  I used buckwheat in the early  fall and cut it down and turned it under in late fall before flowering.  I don't know if it will put out a lot of seeds that will sprout in the spring if you let it flower (I cut it down just as it was starting to flower).  In late fall, I planted annual rye grass in one bed and winter peas (I think they are Austrian Winter Peas) in another bed.  The peas made a massive ground cover and were cut down in the early spring, one half the green growth was composted and one half was turned under.


Here is a picture of the Buckwheat after about 30 days.  It will flower and look real pretty if left in the ground to mature.


Here is a picture of the annual rye grass in the background and winter peas in the foreground.

And here is the winter pea bed just before I cut it down and turned it under.
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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  sanderson on 4/24/2015, 11:57 am

Yolos, This winter was the first time you tried this, correct?

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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  has55 on 4/24/2015, 12:12 pm

in texas, i planted winter rye grass and it has been a nuisance for the last 3 year. dirtdoctor told not to plant it, but I was hard headed. It slowly dying back each year, almost gone, I just found out from the company that cut my yard, that they put down weed killer each year then replant grass. I was not aware how the business around town got rid of it, Now I know. I have not use it in my SFG beds. I planned to grow beans this summer for food , nitrogen fixation and cover crop, rye grass is ok in some zones, it will die and not return, but not here, unless you kill it out.
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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  yolos on 4/24/2015, 12:46 pm

@sanderson wrote:Yolos,  This winter was the first time you tried this, correct?

Yes, this was the first time I tried green manure/cover crops and I only planted in the 4 x 32 foot bed that is only partially Mel's Mix.  I think I made the first 8 feet completely Mel's Mix (that is the area where the winter peas are growing).  The rest of the bed was the top soil from my old row garden to which I have been adding vermiculite and compost every year so it is getting closer to Mel's Mix but still has some soil in the bed (where the buckwheat and rye grass are growing).
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Re: If I don't plant this year, is a cover or cover crop needed?

Post  Turan on 4/24/2015, 4:58 pm

My recommendations of buckwheat and field peas were based on them being annuals that grow thick enough to keep out weeds.  They won't persist.  Also the OP is in northern MidWest, a place with a true winter and break in the garden season.  So these plants will die in the fall when it frosts and then act as a sheet compost/blanket over the beds for the winter.   This will keep the MM an active ecosystem.

Even up here I would not recommend a rye grass.  Though I have used it successfully myself, that was with a tiller to employ.

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