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Winter cover crops

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Winter cover crops

Post  Old Hippie on 9/22/2010, 12:05 am

Has anyone used any kind of winter cover crop to help put more nitrogen and organic material back into the soil? If so, what has been your experience?

I have never done this before but decided to try it this year. Today I planted hairy vetch in the potato patch. Apparently, it is supposed to be very good for putting nitrogen back in the soil. I am not sure how long it takes for the stuff to germinate so this is very much an experiment. Perhaps it is wayyyy to cold now for this to work. I did have to wait until I got the potatoes harvested.


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Re: Winter cover crops

Post  Odd Duck on 9/22/2010, 12:31 pm

I haven't done this in the past, but I just put in a new 50/50 - asparagus/strawberry bed where I've planted fava beans as a green manure crop that will be tilled in to boost the bed before planting the asparagus and strawberries in Jan. I've found that new mix grows stuff much better after it's had a season or more growing something. I suspect it has to do with commensal organisms as well as maturing compost.

After I turn in the fava bean plants and all, if I have enough time, I will be planting another cover crop for a green manure, then turning that in as well. I'm planning on putting in some lettuce and spinach +/- some other quick, salad type stuff beside the fava beans, too. Even if I don't get good production from it, the seed packs hold so much, that I can't possibly use them all before they get excess "age" on them and have diminished germination rates. I figure I might as well some of them up as more green manure even if they don't produce much for my plate. Growing ANYTHING in the new mix will spread roots and organisms around to "activate" the soil before my asparagus goes in where it will stay for potentially decades. I figure I need to do everything I can to make this NOT new soil mix anymore.

Anybody have more thoughts/suggestions for me? This bed is not Mel's new "standard" mix, it is a mix based on recommendations from my local, favorite nursery that has never steered me wrong. It is a bit of sterilized, bagged topsoil (less than 1/4 of the total) along with multiple bags of 4 different kinds of compost, slightly more than 1/2 of my own, very mixed-source compost that includes horse and cow manure, kitchen scraps, yard and garden trimmings, a little spent potting soil (that has some perlite and vermiculite), greensand, lavasand, organic granular fertilizer, bone meal, blood meal, and a bit of dried molasses.

I know I'm bordering on sacreligious by not using Mel's standard mix, but remember, he recommends using pretty much straight compost in areas where vermiculite and peat are not available or too expensive, and it just makes more sense to me to use that as my primary and add supplements, especially after reading about all the problems so many people have had with the standard mix. I just don't want to plant asparagus (which doesn't like to be disturbed) and then have to spend the rest of my life supplementing to make up for a basic deficiency.

So, back to cover crops and green manure. Anybody used these and how did it work out?

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