Green Manure/Cover Crop

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I'm taking out parts of my summer garden now. Yesterday I took out the bush bean plants, fertilized and tilled that area, and planted beets. I have another section with old melon vines to take out, and will soon harvest fall corn and take those cornstalks out too.

As those areas become open, I'd like to till, fertilize, and plant a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. We've got 5 or 6 weeks before hard frost, and that should be enough time to get something up. I'd let it stand all fall and winter, till it under about March, and plant veggies there again in May.

I did this with winter rye one time, but I don't think that accomplished much except putting organic material in the soil. What could I plant now that would do better, and would maybe add some nitrogen when I plow it under?

I've got a good farm supply store nearby and could probably get most any kind of seed. I'm looking for suggestions. Thanks.

Greensboro, AL

Down here they use rape seed. I think you can also use fava beans.
I think you can also use clover, but there are specialized types.
Your local seed source should know, especially if you have a farmer's coop. Otherwise, check with your state extension office.

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

We use buckwheat up here.

Vetch is another good source of N also.


Paul

This message was edited Sep 18, 2007 5:12 PM

Greensboro, AL

Vetch is invasive here. It doesn't go away. Buckwheat is great for conditioning soil because it has hollow stems. It takes air into clay soil.
It is a summer crop here.

Fountaintown, IN(Zone 5b)

Previous owners added a deck with swimming pool to the property I now own. The potter's clay that they dug out was dumped right where I want my flower garden! How inconsiderate!!!
Please tell me what to add to heavy clay to make it something in which plants will thrive.

Greensboro, AL

esgroonly: some people recommend adding gypsum to clay to improve the soil structure. I think the best thing to do is to build raised lasagna beds. The more humus you add, the better your soil will be.

For larger areas you can cover crop with buckwheat. Buckwheat has hollow straws so it takes air into the soil. But any cover crop will add humus and that's what you want to improve clay soil. Ask your local extension agent about good winter crops for your area.

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

Organic material, and compost, you can never get enough

Paul

Greensboro, AL

Ive heard that clay soil, once it gets some humus into it, is really the best garden soil there is because it retains water. Don't forget to collect leaves this fall.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I picked up 2.4 lbs. of buckwheat seed yesterday. What a deal - it only cost $1.47.

Buckwheat's not what you'd think of as wheat at all. The seeds are black and triangular, they kinda look like little Brazil nuts. Pictures of the buckwheat plant show that it's more like clover - with a spreading habit, broad leaves, and blooms. I'm going to try it and see what happens.

Greensboro, AL

It is usually a summer crop, but it does come on quickly so you might be able to get in a crop before freezing weather. the blossoms invite bees. And, you can use the seeds for pillows!

Fountaintown, IN(Zone 5b)

SO NICE for so many to respond!!

What about peat moss? That seems to be a readily available form of organic matter, and I don't have to wait for it to grow before I incorporate it.

Will also use gypsum; WHAT is a lasagna bed? Sounds delicious, but not too comfy!

I'll also look for buckwheat...at Ag One? Garden supply? Other?

Many thanks,
Carol

Greensboro, AL

What is a lasagna bed?

Here is a start:

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/685261/

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

You should be able to find buckwheat at any feed store.

Or you can watch a rerun of the Little Rascals.

Paul

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Heh - you're cute.

Carol, peat moss is good stuff.

Kirkland, WA(Zone 7b)

Hi from the Pacific Northwest.
I have used buckwheat with excellent results, and another that was great for my clay is Crimson Clover. We don't normally get extreme winter temps, so it does overwinter, albeit, looking a bit haggardly by February. It is very easy to till under & for the stray seedlings that come up later, easy to pull.
Favas work well, but for earlier plantings. Vetch made nice soil, but ditto to Gloria's comment.
As an aside - are you all ready for winter? We had such a cool/wet summer that many of us are in radical denial here...Hope it's not a repeat of Winter 2006.
Take care!

Greensboro, AL

We are so hung up on "global warming" that we forget it is also extreme winters. I understand there have been frost warnings already in Michigan. Here, it was mid-September before it was fit to be outside because of the heat. I don't think its going to make for a mild winter. We are finally getting some rain because of the tropical storms in the gulf.

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

In Ann Arbor Michigan it got down to 30 one morning last week.
Very unusual for this time of year. Back in the 80's now.

Paul

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Here, we're in the zone between real cold winters and warmer temps. That's bad in a way, because we get ice storms. That happens when the clouds up above are warmer and raining, and the rain falls into sub-freezing temps at ground level.

Last year an ice storm here broke so many trees down that some people were without power for weeks. I don't like cold winters, but I think up north where it's really cold they don't get so much of that.

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

Speaking of peat moss...I just got 2 yds. today from a local bog. It comes premoistened and is such a good and cheap amendment.

Greensboro, AL

There have been arguments that peat is a nonrenewable resource.
There really is no replacement for it in potting soil that I know about anyway.

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I don't think that it is a non renewlable resourse. Apparent;y it is regenerating faster in the wilds of Canada than we are using it. I think that the arguments start with the disruption of the native purity and such like issues

Again, my peat came from a local Indiana bog with little transportation.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Good - I did google it before putting my comment up - looks like there's a group of folks in Canada who are managing it in a responsible way - I wish I could have found a similar group in the US.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

We bought a block coco coir and used that instead of peat this past year. It seems to work as well in potting mixes and as an amendment.

Kirkland, WA(Zone 7b)

GM - how was it to work with? I had heard about using coir, but since peat moss is "known" to most people, the stores don't stock it.
I'm sure it's available at one of the specialty nursuries. Will check out.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

I find coir easier to work with than peat moss. We buy the large size dried blocks from stores that carry hydroponic supplies (yes, your friend and neighbors *will* wonder what you intend to grow when you inquire about hydroponic supplies! LOL!).
The dried coir bricks expand A LOT! So break up the bigger blocks or be sure to put them into a really large container when you rehydrate them.

Kingston, OK(Zone 7a)

Use Turface to break up the clay soil, so it drains
I get mine at the feed store here.
The cheapest is to buy the stuff the schools use on ball diamonds.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I think I'm going to like buckwheat as a green manure crop.

In my garden, I've taken out everything but the tomatoes and peppers around the outside fence. I planted a couple of rows of beets, but I've tilled and fertilized the rest of the garden and planted buckwheat.

The buckwheat came up four days after planting. It's a big plant with a big seed, and it's growing fast. In spite of the name, it's not a grass like wheat. It looks more like clover.

The blue pellets between the buckwheat seedlings are a slow-release fertilizer I scattered, it's pretty weak stuff.

Thumbnail by Ozark
Kirkland, WA(Zone 7b)

Ozark - I really liked the Buckwheat - it was so easy to deal with & when sowed early enough gave great results in regards to speed/rate of germination, and tilth when worked in early spring.

Greensboro, AL

Ozark: most people I know who grow buckwheat also have bees.

Kirkland, WA(Zone 7b)

Gloria - "have bees" as in keeping them or as visitors?
I don't keep any, but they seem to love my property. We are very concerned about the diminishing Honeybee population. I was getting worried last Spring - the numbers were way down. But about the beginning of July they were all over the place. The Varoa mite & CCD have taken their toll.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

If buckwheat is as useful as I think it is, it's got me thinking about another project.

We live on a six-acre place. About half of it is woods and the rest is "pasture", though I don't have any animals on it. It's just grass I mow 4 or 5 times a season with a tractor and brushhog.

About half an acre of that is "bottomland" at the bottom of our hill. It's a natural drainage with black clay silt instead of the poor red rocky stuff on the hillside. The grass always grows a lot higher in that area.

I'm thinking about poisoning out the fescue and Johnson grass down there, plowing it under, then planting buckwheat. I'd keep turning the buckwheat under and maybe build some good soil in time. Also a friend already keeps beehives on our place, so maybe we'd get more good honey.

Yeah, I know, Johnson grass is tough to get rid of. With my tractor and turning plow, though, I ought to be able to keep ahead of it. The idea is to plant buckwheat for the bees and also make a new patch for melons, which now take up so much room in my vegetable garden.

Greensboro, AL

katye: they keep bees and grow buckwheat because the bees love it when it blooms. I think most people try to turn under the buckwheat before it blooms if they are just growing it for soil improvement purposes.

Ozark: I wonder if you couldn't just cut that johnson and fescue grass and plant buckwheat on top of it, using the buckwheat to crowd out the other grasses?

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"Ozark: I wonder if you couldn't just cut that johnson and fescue grass and plant buckwheat on top of it, using the buckwheat to crowd out the other grasses?"
--------------------
I doubt it. Fescue grass puts a toxin in the soil that keeps other plants from growing. Fescue has to be dead before that toxin starts to diminish.

Johnson grass spreads with side roots in the soil as big around as a pencil. It comes back over and over again after spraying it with herbicide, and I doubt there's anything that can crowd it out.

Greensboro, AL

They are tough grasses all right. Down here they use rape seed to crowd out weeds. They use a lot of poisons, too though.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Ozark, my extension officer said to keep cutting the Johnson grass as low as you can - if it gets no leaves, it produces no energy to keep the *&*@#$^ root alive, and that's the best way of killing it that she knew of.

I have the same infestation, myself.

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

I planted buckwheat on the first corn growing space in my garden about 6 weeks ago. It is in bloom now and I will have my fellow mow it today and leave it in place to decompose over winter. I have used buckwheat whenever I had space for it for many years. i used to till it in but now I don't till the soil very much, just dig my trench or whatever to plant seeds in the spring . That way I don't kill the very helpful worms, or dig out a toad. that method has worked pretty well for me now for several years. the rest of the corn bed has had the shreds from my own shredder spread about 2 " deep on the area. There is still some corn stalks standing with good ears. As soon as they are harvested the stalks will be cut down to ground level. My fellow takes the stalks home to feed his horses. Then the area will have more shreds spread over.

Donna

Greensboro, AL

I love buckwheat. So do the bees. I sleep on a buckwheat pillow. I guess you don't get seed to make pillows from if you cut it and lay it down for mulch.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Donna, can I borrow your fellow? Mine is great with a computer but with gardening.... mmm... not so much!

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

The fellow who works for me drives 15 miles from their place to here and has worked for me when he has the time and I have the money for about 20 years now. With my angina problem, I would have to give up even more of my garden if I didn't have him to help. Pulling big weeds and carrying anything heavier than 10 lb. is my greatest problem now. You can borrow him but might be a bit of a drive from his place to yours.

Donna

Greensboro, AL

That would be quite a drive. But he must be a real treasure if he knows to pull the weeds and not the plants.

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