Cover crop to improve garden

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by jonc, Jan 12, 2007.

  1. jonc

    jonc Well-Known Member

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    I have a small suburban garden which has soil that has some clay content, but not too severe. I wanted to try to improve it this year by getting a truck load of compose to rototill in this spring (it's in NJ, so we plant around early may - tomatoes, peppers, squash...)

    My question is as follows: Is there a cover crop that I can plant now or early spring that will benifit the garden when tilled in around mid April or did I drop the ball by not having sown something this fall? It is a shame b/c we had temps in the 60s until two weeks ago, and I am sure that if I had planted something it would have totally produced tons of green matter. Any other suggestions to help improve the soil would be great. The problem is that the soil tills nicely, has no rocks, but then compacts by the end of the season due to the clay content. Again, it is not all clay, but the way it drains and compacts suggests to me some clay is there.
     
  2. Gunga

    Gunga Well-Known Member

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    I like clover as a cover crop. It requires a lot of sun and NJ may be too cool now for it to grow.
     

  3. jonc

    jonc Well-Known Member

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    If I were to sow clover would it germinate when the weather was warm enough or would it be killed by the cold? What type of clover? Would anything else be worth planting when I plan to till the garden first week of may? Any other suggestions of other things to add to improve the soil? I don't really do cold weather crops, so I have from now until around the 2nd week of may to work some magic. Thanks.
     
  4. rocket

    rocket Well-Known Member

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    Would Winter Rye stand a better chance of germinating and growing at this time of year?
     
  5. dcross

    dcross Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I doubt any of the clovers would have much growth by May, they won't germinate until March or April.

    If you get rye to grow and leave it till May, you might not get it tilled under:)

    How about all those Christmas trees laying around? Lots of nitrogen in the needles, your yard waste center might have a pile of them all shredded, free for the hauling.
     
  6. jonc

    jonc Well-Known Member

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    So basically just till in some chipped christmas trees?

    Would winter rye work? I would get it tilled in, not to worry...it's only a small plot and I am determined.
     
  7. dcross

    dcross Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yep, just a nice layer of needles, till it in now or wait till spring. Or compost them.

    I'm not sure what rye would do if started now, is your ground frozen?
     
  8. dcross

    dcross Well-Known Member Supporter

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  9. jonc

    jonc Well-Known Member

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    ground frozen? Not even close! I would say we haven't even had a hard freeze yet. This week was warm. Last night I went to the supermarket and saw someone wearing flip flops and shorts. ???? Granted, crazy for 50 degrees, but still...not NJ in January! This week should be cold, but I will believe it when I see it. I think I will try the winter wheat - why not, right? If it goes crazy, I will till earlier.
     
  10. swamp man

    swamp man Well-Known Member

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    Winter rye is what I use.With a little nitrogen and some water during dry periods,it grows like crazy.Definitely,you have enough time to make it worth doin'.I seed once,and after it germinates,overseed again.It helps make much denser growth.
     
  11. Gunga

    Gunga Well-Known Member

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    I have 3 rows that are 3' x20' each. I plan to build another raised bed row this year.
    I'm going to rest one row which I will use clover as a cover for during the growing season. That will give me 3 3'x20' rows to grow vegetables on. After the growing season I will mulch heavily with chopped leaves to help the soil build over winter.
    The leaf mulch I used for cover this winter has done great. The bottom 1/2" layer of leaves has turned into a nice black compost.
    I'm looking forward to spring.
     
  12. Tricky Grama

    Tricky Grama Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to try about a 20' X 5' garden plot & I seeded 'hairy vetch'. But I'm in N. TX so don't know if this would be a good cover crop for you. It came up beautiful & supposedly you can either till it in or mow it short & plant.

    Patty
     
  13. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    One of the rye cover crops...not sure if it is the perennial or annual one...needs about 2 weeks after tilling before you can plant seeds of new crops. Maybe someone else can help out here.
     
  14. dcross

    dcross Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There's rye the cereal grain, and ryegrass(perennial and annual). Cereal rye has allelopathic effects:

    http://www.montana.edu/wwwpb/ag/baudr229.html

    <<When winter rye is used as winter cover crop and killed with herbicides prior to planting, allelochemical compounds leaching from the rye residues inhibit weed emergence. and its allelopathy may hinder germination of small-seeded crops. >>

    But the two week rule is probably due to this:

    <<However, tall stemmy rye decomposes slowly, interfering with seedbed preparation,>>

    But at the same time, newfarm.org is rolling rye/vetch and planting corn in a single pass!

    http://www.newfarm.org/depts/notill/index.shtml
     
  15. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It won't work now, but we plant buckwheat in beds that are vacated in July, and then till it in at the end of September. We also have clay loam, and we were astounded at the increase in tilth and permeability this has given our beds!
     
  16. jonc

    jonc Well-Known Member

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    Welp, we had another day in the 50s! I went out to the farm store, got some winter rye, pitch forked the garden (!) and planted the seed. Thanks for the help and let's see what happens. Time for a hot bath, I've earned it!
     
  17. blucifershammer

    blucifershammer New Member

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    Hi new guy here ,anyone tried buckwheat I used it for my bees once and it grew so fast I just left it go to seed and then mowed it off the second time before it seeded again,was a cover crop just for the honey and to be tilled in.Worked real well and only took a few weeks to flower.
     
  18. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    I always use buckwheat for a green manure crop. Sowed in early spring as soon as the ground is frost free. In about 3 weeks its several inches, with lots of nutrient when tilled back in the ground. If I didn't want to use the garden until later in June, than I'd plant another crop of buckwheat on virgin tilled soil. As it rots, it will release good nutirients for when it's time to plant your garden. Gotta till it in before the flowers set seed, though. In fall, that is why I avoided buckwheat and went to annual rye. At that time it winter kills and you don't even have to till it in. The following spring I then planted buckwheat over that, or sometimes oats. till that in...good green manure.