I'm new here -- what a wealth of information! Anyway, this is my first post, and I have a question:
I have a bag of pelleted red clover seeds, and I'm springling them through my vegetable garden (after the crops get established) to keep down weeds and act as a green manure. But, it's just occured to me that I don't know what's used in the pelleting process. Does anyone know if it's anything potentially harmfull, that I wouldn't want in the soil where food is being grown? Thanks.
gaffneycatch, first...a hearty WELCOME TO DG! Welcome aboard the best ride on the internet!
As Mary said, yep, normally seeds are just pelleted with a clay mix. Your clover seed is most likely pelleted so it is more evenly distributed by bigtime farm machinery seeders. There is no reason (I have ever heard of) that the pellets would contain any herbicides/pesticides/other chemicals so you will be fine using it in your garden.
Red clover will certainly be a good green manure crop as well as help to block out weed growth but you might want to mow it or weed-whack the flowers off before they go to seed and it can easily reseed and end up in your rows and eventually have an adverse affect on your crops if it starts competing.
I tend to use buckwheat as a weed blocker/suppressant in the warm month. It not only comes up much faster than clover but can be tilled under and immediately resown. The tilling under will add nice plant matter to your soil and the best part is you can resow the same day, repeat the process and you'll have a chance to do it yet again before cold weather hits. This'll give you about 3 crops of buckwheat to grow, till under, regrow, etc...in the process you'll be suppressing weeds as well as adding good tilth to your garden soil.
I tend to sow clover (usually crimson clover in our area) in the late summer/early Fall and let it grow through the Winter. It'll protect the soil, add nutrition, and really bring in the pollinators/beneficial creatures come Spring time!
Horseshoe, that's great information about clover and other green mannures. With the clover, I was told by a "master gardener" friend to wait at least 2 weeks after turning it in to the soil before planting veggies in that area. I assume this is to allow the clover plants to break down a bit and release their nitrogen into the soil ... but maybe there's another reason (heat maybe?). What is it about buckwheat that allows you to replant immediately, and how is clover different?
Again, appreciate the responses. I'm really excited to have found this place -- it seems like it's going to be a great resourse.
gaffneyc... Yes, some folks recommend a waiting period after turning under leafy plants. This is often due to the fact that during decomposition of the plants there will be a "loss of available nitrogen" until the plant is fully decomposed. (During the breakdown the bacteria use the available nitrogen but tend to "give it back" once they have met their needs.) By immediately planting a veggie plant in the decomposing green manure there will be less N for that veggie plant to use, for a while anyway. However, that temporary unavailability of N can be overcome by augmenting the soil with another form, be it compost, fertilizer/plant food, etc.
As for heat buildup during the breakdown process, you won't notice a big amount of it like you would if you were throwing your clover in a big pile (like a compost heap).
Regarding the buckwheat, it sprouts, grows fast, blocks weeds, and can be turned under easily with no threat of heat buildup. It will break down much more quicker than clover because of its hollow stems. I've sown more seeds the same day and have had excellent results.
As a side note, I've also done the same using veggie plants as my green manure crops, even bush beans. My favorite "green manure veggies" are sowing early garden peas in blocks, picking the peas for as long as I can, then turn the plants under and sow bush beans. When the bush beans begat I pick the beans for as long as they produce, then turn those plants under. Doing so will not only apply a bit of N to the soil (from the pea and bush bean plants) but also adds the nice leafy matter, which really contributes to good tilth of your garden soil. After the bush beans are tilled under you still have time to set out your brassica crops for a Fall/Winter garden (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc).