Cover crops - which ones?

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Paletti
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Cover crops - which ones?

Postby Paletti » Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:24 pm

These cold winter days are the perfect time to prepare for next spring. My wife and I don't have a property yet but I can help reading everything I can find on soil, crops, permaculture, organics etc that I can get my hands on. And it seems that one of the most important goals is improving soil quality using cover crops. Last night I came across this video https://youtu.be/y_GEpq59urY and it's very interesting for anyone who's interested in cover crops (this farmer uses daikon, soybeans, clover and many many others as cover crops). Now, as I don't have any experience with cover crops, I was just curious if any of you has used them and if so which ones and how they grew.

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Zasso Nouka
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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Postby Zasso Nouka » Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:52 am

For winter I've used Italian rye grass and hairy vetch, you can buy large 1kg packs of the seeds easily enough and they work quite well. The vetch fixes nitrogen and the rye grass adds biomass, I only wish I had a flail mower attachment for my tractor to finely chop them when turning them into the soil as they tend to wrap around the rotary attachment.

Sorghum makes a good cover crop for the summer months, it grows really fast outpacing weeds and not many insects eat it and the roots are too tough for most soil dwelling pests so they starve. It adds a huge amount of biomass when turned into the soil.

For general soil improvement you can't go wrong adding rice husks and rice husk charcoal and bamboo charcoal will last for several years once turned into the soil. If you are looking at land that has been conventionally farmed for a long time and maybe depleted of minerals then adding oyster shells is a very good way of replacing those minerals and micro nutrients, around 500 - 600円 for a 20kg sack I think.

If you are adding chicken manure from egg laying chickens rather than broilers then it's likely they will have been fed oyster shells so their manure will have a higher mineral content than manure from broilers.

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Postby Paletti » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:37 pm

Very useful - thank you Zasso. Has anyone ever tried buckwheat?

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Postby Zasso Nouka » Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:21 am

Sorry, not tried it myself as we don't have a harvester.

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Postby Eric in Japan » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:09 pm

Paletti wrote:Has anyone ever tried buckwheat?


Yes, I tried it. As a cover crop I just mowed it down with my brush cutter while flowering. It makes a nice mulch, but really decomposes fast.
I have never seen the enormous benefits everyone talks about with cover crops. But I am a very lazy gardener, so weed (and boar) pressure means I have a terrible garden every season. Good intentions and poor execution.

I also grew some out to harvest the seeds. 90 days from planting to harvest. I cut them low to the ground with my kama, tied them with a twist of rice straw, and hung them on a bamboo pole to dry. To thresh them I just kind of beat them with a stick, and used a gloved hand to strip the seeds off. An electric fan made winnowing a "breeze" and I had enough soba to make New Years Noodles for my family. It was a lot of effort for not much food, but I was in it for the experience more than the flavor.

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Re: Cover crops - which ones?

Postby Paletti » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:01 am

Hi Eric - thanks for your reply. Man, making soba with the kids must be great fun, regardless of it eventually tastes! One of the reasons I want to grow it is because we love the baked seeds in our homemade granola.

Too bad cover crops have not really worked for you so far. I assume you and everyone else on this forum are aware of Fukuoka Food Forest but here's a link anyway http://permaculturenews.org/2014/07/15/ ... od-forest/

It gives a clear overview of the species he used in his food Forest. White clover was a real winner in his orchard. I guess it also really helps to start out small, see what works for you in your garden specifically, and then slowly expand.

I have also been very interested in compact “support” trees… like yamamomo (Myrica rubra) and acacias as small dwarf nitrogen-fixing support trees (max 2-3 meters tall). My plan is to prune/train the hell out of them into an espalier/multi-cordon so they can fit in a row of fruit trees and don’t create to much shade for crops around them. I bought a yamamomo years ago and it has been performing rather well on my balcony so I definitely want to propagate this one by taking cuttings come spring - hopefully she is a female.


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