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Why I Keep Reading

March 5th, 2013

Why do I continually read gardening books even though I’m fairly knowledgeable on the subject? Because every now and then I come across a gem like this:

“Another unique use of cover crops is in the strawberry bed. Recent research has shown that after fruiting, June-bearing strawberry plants are very tolerant of shade. A cover crop–of oats, for example–sown right in the strawberry bed after the berries have been gathered can shade out weeds through the growing season, then eventually flop down dead to provide the mulch in which strawberry plants thrive.”

Lee Reich – from Weedless Gardening

cover crops 1
The section on cover crops in this book is fantastic. Since it’s a no-till garden book, he focuses on the cover crops that are easy to kill without tilling in. In fact the cover crop chart in this book is fenomenal, worth ready the book for. The remainder of the book wasn’t anything too exciting.
cover crops 2
cover crops 3
I’ve always had good luck with rye and vetch, I simply cut them in the late spring and let the foliage compost on the ground. I’ve never had issues with it growing back or causing problems. This year I’m looking forward to trying a few new cover crops, no doubt you’ll be reading all about them here.

What’s your favorite cover crop? Or have you never used them before?

11 Comments to “Why I Keep Reading”
  1. Aurora on March 5, 2013 at 7:13 am

    I have just moved our strawberries and was wondering about mulch. I don’t much want to have to buy straw each year just to mulch the strawberries, so this seems like an excellent idea. Until now the only cover crop I have used is chickweed, selectively weeding around it to allow it to spread. It grew under our berry bushes and through the bean crop quite happily and didn’t seem to impact the yield.

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  2. Robin on March 5, 2013 at 7:19 am

    My highly acidic soil is great for clover. It fixes nitrogen, attracts pollinators and does a good job of suppressing weeds. I tilled all of it in last fall to allow for easy planting when I start using a new garden design. I’ll plant the new paths this spring.

    I planted oats in a quarter acre last year to help with a weed problem. It fell over under heavy snow. I’m hoping it’s thick enough and lasts long enough to serve as a mulch until the pumpkins get established. I’ll transplant three week old seedlings to give them a head start in case the oats don’t last.

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  3. kathi Cook on March 5, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I haven’t tried them yet, as I assumed the tilling of them looked like too much trouble. I love the strawberry bed idea. The only weed problem I ever had was in my strawberry bed after they bloomed. I’ll have to look for this book in the library and give cover crops a second thought.

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  4. Joan on March 5, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Oats and buckwheat are my favorite cover crops, but I would really like to learn more about using clover and other crops that can be intermixed with growing plants. I love the oats/strawberry idea!

    I’ve used rye but didn’t like dealing with it the following spring so now use mostly oats in the fall and buckwheat the rest of the time. Sometimes in the fall if I have clover or another low growing weed taking over some of my garden beds I’ll just leave them to deal with in the spring, figuring they’ll keep the soil in place until I’m ready to plant again. I’m looking forward to learning more so keep the posts about cover crops coming!

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  5. Maybelline on March 5, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I like your suggestion for strawberries.

    Reply to Maybelline's comment

  6. Nebraska Dave on March 5, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Susy, I haven’t tried cover crops yet. Last fall I just mulched heavy with the neighborhood collected grass/leaf mixture. Hopefully it will be enough to keep the weeds under control and maybe even over winter composting will have started. Dad always covered the previous year’s small grain ground with sweet clover which was plowed under in the spring to make ready for the corn crop. He was big time into crop rotation and natural fertilization. He used cover crops and rotation up until he quit farming in the 1970s. It was just farming for him and he didn’t really know any thing about organic. I kind of miss his homestead wisdom. He would have definitely been considered a homesteader in today’s world but then I expect all the farmers from his generation would have been considered homesteaders.

    Have a great Maine day. Here comes storm Saturn. :0)

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  7. Donna B. on March 5, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I have actually never tried cover crops before – but this year will be my first! There is a large area of my back yard that I want to ammend with cover crops… I went with buckwheat [I wanted hairy vetch, but most of the sites offering it doesn’t do small-ish orders…] mainly for it’s height and cover!
    I would love to hear as much as possible about cover crops! Since I’m not terribly great at keeping my attention while reading books, I can now “read” them through you! Hee hee! ♥

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  8. KimH on March 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve used all sorts of cover crops over the last 25 or so years.. but my favorite were always clovers, vetch & winter rye in my super sandy soil because they would have a higher germination rate in it.. I used others and they were ok too, but I usually used a mix.

    Since I garden in a community garden now, I dont get in there late in the season to till or plant any cover crops. A few times, I’ve just broadcast loads of a mix over my little plots & hope that they take ahold when it gets tilled by the Park. I never did go check since we’re not permitted in there, but I always have a little hope in my soul. ;)

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  9. Amy S on March 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    when they talk about planting these cover crops I assume you allow them to grow and do not cut them in the fall. Is this correct?

    Reply to Amy S's comment

    • Susy on March 5, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Yes, you allow it to die and flop over, at least that’s what it implied in this book. I’m guessing a google search might result in the original study information.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. Hazel on March 6, 2013 at 12:52 am

    I had Weedless Gardening out from the library a few months ago, but didn’t really get into it. I’ll have to check it out again and look for the cover crop chart.

    I’ve grown buckwheat in an attempt to combat perennial weeds, but my rocky soil makes it difficult to till in. I have had good luck with using peas as an edible cover crop as the timing works out for me to plant my fall greens after harvesting the peas in July.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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