Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cover crop cutting

Clover. Lots of clover.

The crimson clover cover crop sown late in the fall is doing great in some beds, and not so good on others (the far beds in the photo). Our winter came very late this year, and I held off on clearing out the beds and getting the cover crop sown for as long as possible so I could keep picking off my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and beans. Turns out I waited too long. I got half of the garden beds planted early enough, but I was too late in getting the other half the cover crop in, so it was frozen out after a few months. Not a huge deal, but I didn't like the beds sitting bare while winter and spring rains pounded down on them with no protection from erosion, compaction, and leaching away of nutrients. Learned my lesson.

I started cutting it by hand (slowly) with my little Japanese hand-held scythe, but soon enough brought out the weed-whacker, which made shorter work of it. Raked it all up and put it on the compost pile. Hopefully the roots remaining in the soil will break down over the next couple weeks as the bed starts to dry out, and I'll be able to turn over the top 6" of each bed, add compost and fertilizer and plant!

It didn't create as much organic matter as I thought it would; mixed with horse manure this will break down and probably only provide enough compost for maybe an inch over two 25' beds. So next year I need to get it planted earlier in all the beds, or possibly sow a large area of crimson clover in a section of the pasture just for composting material...I think chickens will eat it too, so it can be turned into eggs!

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