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OG Living Mulch Experiment Empty OG Living Mulch Experiment

Post  OhioGardener on 6/5/2019, 11:01 am

Last year I began an experiment with using a Living Mulch on the bed with the peppers. I plant 18 peppers (6 Bell, 6 Banana, and 6 Jalapeno) in the bed, with one pepper per square foot. In the past I have used straw, grass clippings, compost, etc., to mulch the peppers. Last year was the first time I experimented with a living mulch, by sowing Crimson Clover on the bed after the peppers were adjusted to their transplant. The living mulch seemed to work very well - the clover grew nicely until the peppers got tall enough to form a shade canopy, and then it died back to the ground. The dried leaves of the heavy clover crop continued to provide a mulch for the rest of the year.

This year, I tried to continue last year's experiment. But, I am not sure I will be able to continue the experiment much longer. The Crimson Clover is growing much faster than it did last year - perhaps the soil is richer from last year's clover feeding nitrogen into it? - and, is beginning to overtake the peppers. I am going to let it continue as is for a while longer, but may end up cutting the Crimson Clover off to stunt its growth. That may kill the clover, but not sure as I have never done that before.  I used pre-inoculated clover seed so that it will put as much nitrogen as possible in the soil.

Is there perhaps a better Living Mulch than Crimson Clover?

These pictures show how the clover is out-growing the peppers somewhat.
OG Living Mulch Experiment Living10


OG Living Mulch Experiment Living11
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Post  sanderson on 6/5/2019, 12:25 pm

Interesting. Did the extra nitrogen affect the peppers last year by producing more plant but less fruit? If you topped the clover and just left it in place, would that work as mulch? I don't know anything about Crimson clover but I have a bed in which I could experiment.

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Post  OhioGardener on 6/5/2019, 6:58 pm

@sanderson wrote:Interesting.  Did the extra nitrogen affect the peppers last year by producing more plant but less fruit?  If you topped the clover and just left it in place, would that work as mulch?  I don't know anything about Crimson clover but I have a bed in which I could experiment.

No, I didn't experience plant growth at the expense of producing fruit. Although the pepper plants grew very large and bushy, the continued blooming and producing lots of fruit right up until frost killed the plants.

That has been my thought, to top out the clover and leave it for mulch. I do that in the spring with the winter cover crop which I cut off at ground level and leave as mulch for the beds. Crimson Clover is an annual. Once it starts to bloom, if the flower heads are cut off the plant will die.
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Post  sanderson on 6/5/2019, 9:54 pm

@OhioGardener wrote:
@sanderson wrote:Interesting.  Did the extra nitrogen affect the peppers last year by producing more plant but less fruit?  If you topped the clover and just left it in place, would that work as mulch?  I don't know anything about Crimson clover but I have a bed in which I could experiment.

No, I didn't experience plant growth at the expense of producing fruit. Although the pepper plants grew very large and bushy, the continued blooming and producing lots of fruit right up until frost killed the plants.
Okay, good.

That has been my thought, to top out the clover and leave it for mulch. I do that in the spring with the winter cover crop which I cut off at ground level and leave as mulch for the beds. Crimson Clover is an annual. Once it starts to bloom, if the flower heads are cut off the plant will die.
Thanks

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Post  OhioGardener on 6/8/2019, 9:55 am

Yesterday I cut off the clover about 2" high, and left the cuttings as mulch. Almost all of the pepper plants have small peppers on them, which were hidden by the clover. Will keep observing the mulch to see how it works after being cut off.

OG Living Mulch Experiment Pepper17

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Post  countrynaturals on 6/8/2019, 12:19 pm

I do living mulch because I'm lazy. I cold compost, so I have lots of weeds. Most of the time I just let them be and only cut them back when they seem to be choking my plants. I really can't see any difference in my beds that have no weeds and the containers with the "living mulch", but it's really not a fair comparison since there are so many other variables.

I can share one interesting experience, however. In Oregon, I tried to raise strawberries. They were easy and awesome, but the slugs always got to them first (and let me tell ya they grow slugs in Oregon Shocked ). Finally, I just gave up. The grass reclaimed the strawberry bed, becoming "living mulch." The slugs never got to the berries due to the grass jungle, and we got to eat our strawberries for a change. Twisted Evil
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Post  sanderson on 6/14/2019, 2:13 am

Interesting story about the strawberries surviving just fine with the grass.  Yes, I know about Oregon slugs! Shocked

Somehow, I thought you chopped the living mulch and left in on the bed to dry.

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Post  countrynaturals on 6/14/2019, 11:53 am

@sanderson wrote:Somehow, I thought you chopped the living mulch and left in on the bed to dry.
Yes, that's what I do when the mulch gets too big for its britches. Razz
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OG Living Mulch Experiment Empty Update on the Living Mulch Experiment

Post  OhioGardener on 8/2/2019, 5:41 pm

Update on the Living Mulch Experiment.  Just as last year, once the peppers - Bell, Banana, and Jalapeno - formed a dense canopy cover, the Crimson Clover which was planted as Living Mulch began dying back. The leaves fell from the stems of the clover and covered the ground with a nice mulch. Under this mulch are the drip irrigation lines which periodically water the garden, and the mulch help to prevent the moisture from evaporating.  The 2nd year experiment with a living mulch for the peppers has been successful for me, and will probably become an yearly event. I may look at other vegetables to see if I can use a living mulch with them, too.

The peppers, which are all about 30" tall, have formed a dense canopy. There are 18 peppers, planted 1 per square in this bed.
OG Living Mulch Experiment Pepper25


Under the peppers are the drying remains of the Crimson Clover which is dying from the heavy shade.
OG Living Mulch Experiment Pepper24

Another view of the "living mulch" after dying from the shade
OG Living Mulch Experiment Pepper26
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Post  sanderson on 8/8/2019, 3:22 am

Question: Does the Crimson Clover reseed in place?

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Post  countrynaturals on 8/8/2019, 1:34 pm

Here's my living mulch update:

1) We buy sunflower seeds for the birds.

2) The birds are sloppy eaters and dump seeds into the planters.

3) The seeds sprout and become living mulch for the plants.

4) When they get out of control, I snip off the sprouts and put them in the compost.

5) I give the compost to the chickens.

6) The chickens process the compost and give it back to me as a soil additive.

7) I add the compost back into the containers to make up for the natural shrinkage.

This morning I went looking for a missing Serrano pepper seedling. I found it in with an enthusiastic crop of living mulch. Here's a "Where's Waldo" before/after series. The chickens will be happy with their sprouts, today. Very Happy 

OG Living Mulch Experiment Pepper12


OG Living Mulch Experiment Pepper11
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Post  OhioGardener on 8/8/2019, 3:34 pm

@sanderson wrote:Question:  Does the Crimson Clover reseed in place?

If the clover were allowed to bloom, it would re-seed. But, since it is an annual, if the blooms are cut off the plants will die without reseeding. In this case of the clover being planted under the shade of the pepper plants, the clover died without blooming due to the heavy shade of the pepper plant canopy.
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Post  countrynaturals on 8/29/2019, 12:23 pm

Here is my accidental living mulch experiment. This planter box is right under the bird feeder. Rolling Eyes  It grows sunflowers and various grasses on its own. I want Chinese Spinach (amaranth), sugar snap peas, and cilantro (red arrow).

On the left side, the "mulch" overpowered the amaranth, so I chopped it down and planted pea seeds this morning, leaving a few sunflowers.
OG Living Mulch Experiment Mulch10

The right side did better. The amaranth is holding its own and I planted a little cilantro start in there, too (red arrow marks the spot).
OG Living Mulch Experiment Mulch210

I had a hard time keeping up with this project cuz so many other things had a higher priority for my limited time in the early mornings, before the heat took over. Now that the blistering heat is in the rear-view mirror, I can play again. I'll work on this project a little bit every day, now. I love you
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Post  countrynaturals on 9/15/2019, 10:25 am

@countrynaturals wrote:Here is my accidental living mulch experiment. This planter box is right under the bird feeder. Rolling Eyes  It grows sunflowers and various grasses on its own. I want Chinese Spinach (amaranth), sugar snap peas, and cilantro (red arrow).

On the left side, the "mulch" overpowered the amaranth, so I chopped it down and planted pea seeds this morning, leaving a few sunflowers.
OG Living Mulch Experiment Mulch10

The right side did better. The amaranth is holding its own and I planted a little cilantro start in there, too (red arrow marks the spot).
OG Living Mulch Experiment Mulch210

I had a hard time keeping up with this project cuz so many other things had a higher priority for my limited time in the early mornings, before the heat took over. Now that the blistering heat is in the rear-view mirror, I can play again. I'll work on this project a little bit every day, now. I love you
This experiment is now over for me and the results are in. IMHO, the only way living mulch is worth it is if it requires no care or serves another purpose -- like munching greens, improving the soil, chicken snacks, or rabbit treats. The maintenance in my planter wasn't worth it. Any old mulch would have worked just as well.

Anything new for you, OG?
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Post  OhioGardener on 9/15/2019, 11:04 am

@countrynaturals wrote:Anything new for you, OG?

My 2nd year of using Living Mulch was very successful.  I only use an annual plant cover crop, specifically Crimson Clover.  It has several benefits: It enriches the soil, suppresses weeds, keeps the soil cooler, and reduces water evaporation. With Crimson Clover, if it is cut off as soon as it starts to bloom, it dies back. After the clover dies it provides great ground cover, and the roots are broken down by microbes while providing nitrogen to growing vegetable plants.
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