cover crops : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I'm interested in finding out what some of you are using as cover crops. Both common and unusual

-- Shawn Wirginis (, September 06, 2000


I'm not exactly sure if cover crops and green manure are the same,but we've used buckwheat as a green manure and clover as a "living mulch". I'd like to try hairy vetch this year-if I can find seed. Blessings,~~~Tracy~~~

-- Tracy Jo Neff (, September 06, 2000.

Hi Shawn, last year was our first for "green manure". We have 2 gardens, one is huge, the other is more typical size. In the large garden, we planted wheat in part of it, then tilled it under in the spring. This spring we planted alfalfa & red clover in the majority of it (kept a smaller area for regular plantings). We have gotton a couple of cuttings off of it, and will keep it in this for another yr or 2 (they say for optimum value, alfalfa should be let to grow for at least 3 yrs-ugh!) Like Tracy, we also use buckwheat for certain areas. Just be sure to till it in before it seeds. Also, in the large garden we used straw this year for mulch (for the area we had our regular veggie plantings). Not a little bit of straw, but deep thick bedding of mulch. For us using too little was worse than not using any, as far as weed control and such.

In our smaller garden, we planted hairy vetch around tomato & pepper plants, as a living mulch. Then in the rows, esp between green beans we used white dutch clover. This was our first year doing this, but I did like it. The soil was definately better able to retain moisture, and EVERYTHING looked so lush & green. It was easy to work in even after a heavy rain, without sinking into the soil. I have a bit of a personality quirk when it comes to weeds, but am working on it! LOL! Anyway, we will be tilling all that in shortly, and will plant wheat for the green manure crop.

I had read somewhere, and am thinking of trying this in a small area. Plant the hairy vetch thickly in an area that you will be planting tomatoes. Let it lay/die over the winter and then in spring/summer when you are ready to plant, just pull back the vetch, dig your hole and plant your tomato plants then pull the vetch back into place. Am curious how this would work. Anyway, am sure there are others who have much more experience with this, and look forward to reading them. Good Luck! God Bless! Wendy

-- Wendy@GraceAcres (, September 06, 2000.

Hello Shawn: In my desert Nevada area, we are so far from any agricultural areas I could only find grass seed at our nurseries - would have had to send away for seed - shipping's too high! So, I bought birdseed. A mix of millet, milo and some sunflower - and it works very well. You didn't mention how much area you need to cover. I have used it to create short windbreaks around my veg. garden. I also planted an exotic parrot mix, which included buckwheat, flax, sunflower, safflower - very interesting mix but expensive. The cheap mostly millet/milo mixes are cheap. Best of luck.

-- Katie (, September 07, 2000.

My wife and I were discussing this a few weeks back and I was even thinking of tilling in manure and compost and covering it with plastic (wrong idea, folks on the forum explained why). Anyway our cover crop question solved itself. I sowed our yard in a sun and shade grass mix and the parts of our garden not being worked are being reclaimed by the yard since I have already scattered the pre winter manure on it. My neighbor that does our terrace turning and discing said that was how our plot has always been covered. Come the spring, a little more compost and cowpie, a turning and discing, we're good to go. Stray grass sprouts...... use a 12 year old boy and a hoe.

-- Jay Blair (, September 08, 2000.

Tracy, Wendy & Katie: I want to thank you for taking the time to answer. Here in swPA I've used buckwheat and clover with good results. Last year I planted an area with birdseed just to see what would happen. It worked great. I let it go to seed and the birds loved it. The hairy vetch sounds like a good one too, I'll have to try it. Thanks again S

-- Shawn Wirginis (, September 08, 2000.

We've used white clover and buckwheat, and had good results from both of them.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, September 08, 2000.

A couple years back when the garden absolutely would not produce, we planted peanuts (raw peanuts in the shell from Winn Dixie)!We got good growth, all the nasty weeds were smothered out, we boiled peanuts in brine at the harvest, and the plants have been growing well since. Then we made the mistake of using weed n feed on our lawn and lost the front half of our front yard. Nothing was coming in-just bare & brown-we planted peanutsalong the sidewalk edge and within 3 weeks the brown areas had recolonized from the left over lawn area and we still have a nice 5 inch border along the walk. We live in eitther zone 10 or 11, depending on which "expert" we are reading.

-- Mitzi Giles (, September 11, 2000.

Shawn, We tried the vetch a couple years ago. It covers everything but the tiller does not like it. Tends to really ball up the tines. The last two years have been turnips(purple top) and mustard greens. Just till and broadcast. Easy picking for all critters and humans and really smothers the weeds plus easy to till under in spring.

-- George (, September 13, 2000.

George, when should you plant the turnips & mustard greens? I have noticed some of the Amish families plant what looks like turnips. Thanks! God Bless! Wendy

-- Wendy Larson (, September 14, 2000.

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