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Post  has55 on 3/2/2019, 6:12 pm

according to the soil food web group, the cover crops will also cause the creation of more fungi and bacteria that will create food our vegetables at the root level. In teaming with microbes book, the bacteria and fungi are fertilizer bags. when they get eaten they leave a lot of organic elements around the root hair of our vegetables and attract the predators to come and eat the bad guys. They also break down any mineral from insoluble to soluble elements/nutrients. Last year I used my battery operated hedge trimmer and cut the cover crops back toward the ground to let my seedling or transplant grow. That works well and was easy to do.
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Post  OhioGardener on 3/3/2019, 9:30 am

Good info, Has55. Thanks! That is what I do with my winter cover crop, and have always had good success with it. Since I don't pull the old vegetable plants out of the soil - I just cut them off at ground level and compost the top of the plant - when I plant the cover fall cover crop it is growing among the roots of the old vegetables, which the microbes & earthworms are digesting.

I like the Winter Rye for the fall cover crop because its roots extend 6' to 8' down into the ground and pull up minerals from deep in the soil.
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Post  sanderson on 3/4/2019, 3:21 am

I've been thinking about winter ground cover, not for the nitrogen so much, but for the organisms. When there are live roots, like my winter crops, there are worms around the roots. (I am pulling some of them at this time and I have to make sure I shake off the worms!) So, maybe it would be a good idea for me to plant winter rye (?) to keep life going underneath?

For the first time ever, I noticed nodules on the winter pea roots!! bounce I reburied the clumps of roots. Total Newbie on this subject. I hope burying them again will keep the nitrogen in the soil. ?

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Post  OhioGardener on 3/4/2019, 7:32 am

@sanderson wrote:For the first time ever, I noticed nodules on the winter pea roots!! bounce  I reburied the clumps of roots.  Total Newbie on this subject.  I hope burying them again will keep the nitrogen in the soil. ?

Leaving them in the ground is exactly the right thing to do, Sanderson! In Teaming With Microbes, Jeff Lowenfels goes into some detail about how "Rhizobium species actually live in the root tissues of certain plants, particularly legumes, where they form visible nodules."  After the plant dies, the microbes in the soil break down the nitrogen in those nodules into a form that is usable by the plants. That is why anytime I plant beans, peas, or clovers in an area that hasn't had them before I inoculate the seeds to ensure there is adequate Rhizobium bacteria to increase the amount of nitrogen pulled from the air and stored in their roots.

I never pull the plants out of the ground when they are done, especially the beans & peas, but just cut them off at ground level and let them decompose.  In a very short time the microbes and earthworms will totally digest the old roots and make the nutrients available to new plants that will be planted in that ares. Another benefit of leaving the roots in the ground is that allows the mycorrhizae to survive while it searches out other living roots to attach to.

===================================

A quote from Teaming With Microbes about this important bacteria:

Rhizobia
First discovered in 1889, rhizobia are yet another important group of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that associate with the roots of legumes (peas, soybeans, lupines, clovers). They don’t fix nitrogen on their own but only after they enter a root, which forms a nodule in which the colonies of bacteria grow and work. In return for the nitrogen produced, the plant provides the bacteria a place to live, carbons and proteins as nutrients, and access to oxygen. It’s a great relationship, with some of the nitrogen produced left in the soil, available to other plants and members of the soil food web.

Rhizobia are available for purchase by the home gardener and are an effective and fast-acting tool when the seeds and roots of legumes are inoculated. Root hair reaction occurs about a minute after inoculation, and rhizobia-based nitrogen is produced in about two weeks. This is “instant” teaming with microbes.
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Post  sanderson on 3/4/2019, 3:07 pm

Thanks. I have that book and it really explains the underground world. Anything I can put in practice I want to try.

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Post  AtlantaMarie on 3/5/2019, 6:17 am

LOL! Yes, Jimmy Cee introduced all of us with Teaming with Nutrients & Teaming with Microbes. Only one I think I'm missing is Fungi. Did NOT know that there's an updated one, though....

Interesting studies. And I guess I don't have enough worms & microbes because I find a NEST of twisted roots in my beds. Makes it hard to plant. Any suggestions???
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Post  Dan in Ct on 3/5/2019, 7:20 am

has55, plants are not as helpless and vulnerable as we once thought. They actually put out exudates through their roots that not only attracts but feeds the beneficial microbiology that enables it to thrive. If you also have mycorrhizae in your soil and a major reason why no-till, minimum till works, you have supplied the necessary network for the plant to want for nothing. The reason you feed the soil and the soil in turn feeds you.

AtlantaMarie, are these tree roots? I use Popsicle sticks for marking varieties and by the end of season, the part that is in the soil is gone. I do grow mostly in buckets for the most part and remove the tomato/pepper/eggplant root balls for composting. The root ball is much smaller in the spring than in the fall after the frost.I do screen some buckets in the fall just to see the root ball and if any insects are getting ready to overwinter. You will also see earthworms in the root ball, here mostly Lumbricus rubellus along with Lumbricus terrestris (Canadian Nightcrawler), both most excellent earthworms to be gardening with.
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Post  OhioGardener on 3/5/2019, 7:33 am

@AtlantaMarie wrote:LOL!  Yes, Jimmy Cee introduced all of us with Teaming with Nutrients & Teaming with Microbes.  Only one I think I'm missing is Fungi.  Did NOT know that there's an updated one, though....

I don't have Teaming With Fungi yet, either, but it is on my wish list. Jeff Lowenfels does an excellent job of describing the soil food web in an easy to understand way.  I started a project last year to intentionally create more fungus-based compost, and have had pretty good success so far - a lot more work to do, though.
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Post  AtlantaMarie on 3/6/2019, 6:26 am

@Dan in Ct wrote:AtlantaMarie, are these tree roots? I use Popsicle sticks for marking varieties and by the end of season, the part that is in the soil is gone. I do grow mostly in buckets for the most part and remove the tomato/pepper/eggplant root balls for composting. The root ball is much smaller in the spring than in the fall after the frost.I do screen some buckets in the fall just to see the root ball and if any insects are getting ready to overwinter. You will also see earthworms in the root ball, here mostly Lumbricus rubellus along with Lumbricus terrestris (Canadian Nightcrawler), both most excellent earthworms to be gardening with.

No, not tree roots. Although I do have a problem with some hedge roots from a neighbor even though that hedge was pulled out probably 10 years ago. But it's in a separate area from where I found this tangled mess.
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Post  Dan in Ct on 3/6/2019, 8:14 am

AtlantaMarie, I would have thought you would have less problems with roots than I but tomato plant root balls can be a substantial mess of roots. Your roots because of your higher higher temperatures, you would think decomposition would be faster. Are the roots from peppers, eggplants or tomato plants which might take 6 months of in ground composting to be completely gone. After sitting in on organic and conventional farming/gardening webinars, I am leaning towards minimal disturbances. Sometimes there are reasons to disturb the soil. Tomato or any plants that showed signs of soil borne disease should be dug up. The less the amount of disturbance the better for the soil fungi.

OhioGardener, I thought the Teaming with Fungi was the best of the trilogy but it could be my understanding of the material had grown that it all fit together that I had to reread the other two. To be honest, I didn't fully understand Teaming with Microbes when I read it 10 years ago but if anyone is a beginner or novice to looking at the soil from a microbiological perspective, just keep reading, slowly it all comes together. I was lucky enough to find Jeff Lowenfels at a yahoo group called Gardening Organically that had two great people among others, Gloria, the owner and John Bridges whose knowledge was second to none. Jeff Lowenfels had and still has a yahoo group called Compost Teas, The Soil Food Web and Soils! Dr. Elaine Ingham is also there and has been kind and gracious enough to answer for the last 10 years any questions that I may have had and she agreed with me. Have you ever wondered why there is no earthworm in The Soil Food Web poster while having 3 nematodes. The Earthworm was suppose to be front and center. She had to make a compromise. Tim Wilson can be found at the Logical Gardener site and I respect no one's opinion on microscopes or soil microbiology than his. He has no vested interest and yet still generously shares his time, knowledge and experience so freely. The Logical Gardener is an excellent site for the citizen scientist gardener to be among citizen scientist growers, wealth of information but posting has slowed down recently. 

I have been extremely lucky in the people I have met on this thing called the internet. It is why I have to be open source. The need to talk gardening and share is just me being me. I include several here that I have got to meet as garden gems, precious people preaching the good news of growing.
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Post  AtlantaMarie on 3/7/2019, 7:30 am

Dan, yeah... Tomatoes... That was certainly part of it, lol!

I see I have some research & reading to do. (Oh, if I could be a professional student...... I'd jump on it in a heartbeat!)
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Post  OhioGardener on 3/7/2019, 10:00 am

@AtlantaMarie wrote:Interesting studies.  And I guess I don't have enough worms & microbes because I find a NEST of twisted roots in my beds.  Makes it hard to plant.  Any suggestions???

AM, after following the subsequent discussions on this, I am curious at what point you found these nests of twisted roots in the beds?  Was it at the time the plants were done producing for the year and the plants were pulled up, or was it after the plants had been cut off at ground level and the roots had been left in the ground for a number of months? Were the tomato roots full of root knot nematodes?  (Side note: Winter Rye cover crops kill root knot nematodes by trapping them.)

At the end of the gardening season, the stalks of my tomato plants are like small trees and I have to use lopping shears to cut them off at ground level. If I dig down into the soil, there is a huge mass of roots with all kinds of fungi among them.  But, if I dig down into that same spot the next spring there is nothing there but the roots of cover crop that was growing over the winter - the tomato plant roots were totally broken down and digested over the winter months. When I get ready to plant the following spring, though, there is usually a remnant of the stalk left on the surface of the soil which I have to bury.

Curious, have you ever introduced mycorrhizae to your soil?
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Post  OhioGardener on 8/20/2019, 3:42 pm

Can't believe it will soon be time start preparing the beds for the winter, and planting Winter Cover Crops. I will keep one bed open, just covered with straw, to have it for early Spring planting of Onions, Kale, and Chard, but the rest of them will be planted in Winter Rye and either clover or Hairy Vetch. This afternoon I received an email from High Mowing Gardens on the type & value of cover crops, and it reminded me I need to get the seeds ordered.  So, I put in an order for a Winter Rye/Hairy Vetch mix....

Fall Cover Crops: How to Plan, Establish and Incorporate
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Post  AtlantaMarie on 8/21/2019, 7:52 am

@OhioGardener wrote:
@AtlantaMarie wrote:Interesting studies.  And I guess I don't have enough worms & microbes because I find a NEST of twisted roots in my beds.  Makes it hard to plant.  Any suggestions???

AM, after following the subsequent discussions on this, I am curious at what point you found these nests of twisted roots in the beds?  Was it at the time the plants were done producing for the year and the plants were pulled up, or was it after the plants had been cut off at ground level and the roots had been left in the ground for a number of months? Were the tomato roots full of root knot nematodes?  (Side note: Winter Rye cover crops kill root knot nematodes by trapping them.)

At the end of the gardening season, the stalks of my tomato plants are like small trees and I have to use lopping shears to cut them off at ground level. If I dig down into the soil, there is a huge mass of roots with all kinds of fungi among them.  But, if I dig down into that same spot the next spring there is nothing there but the roots of cover crop that was growing over the winter - the tomato plant roots were totally broken down and digested over the winter months. When I get ready to plant the following spring, though, there is usually a remnant of the stalk left on the surface of the soil which I have to bury.

Curious, have you ever introduced mycorrhizae to your soil?

OG, sorry for the late reply. This was several months after the season ended. I had not pulled or cut anything. So in trying to get ready for spring planting, I started pulling then. Thankfully my husband had made me a screen.

So I guess what I'm seeing/absorbing is that I should cut things off at ground level if I'm going to leave them in the bed... ??
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Post  OhioGardener on 8/21/2019, 8:30 am

@AtlantaMarie wrote:So I guess what I'm seeing/absorbing is that I should cut things off at ground level if I'm going to leave them in the bed...  ??

I cut everything off at the ground level, and let it decompose as food for the soil, unless it was a diseased plant which I will pull out and dispose of.  The more alive the living soil web is, the faster the old roots will be consumed. In the spring when I cut off the cover crop of Winter Rye, it has roots up to 6' deep and they are all left in the soil to not only decompose and feed the microbes, but to aerate the soil.

The difference in fall and spring is that in the fall the vegetable plants are cut off and the tops are chopped up and put in the compost, while in the spring the Winter Rye is cut off at the ground and the tops are left on the soil as mulch.
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Post  AtlantaMarie on 8/22/2019, 9:23 am

Good to know. Thanks, OG!

I've read some stuff on it (books suggested by Jimmy Cee), but it's very hard to plant new ones when old roots are in the way, lol. This gives me some definitive ways to get that taken care of.
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Post  OhioGardener on 8/22/2019, 9:42 am

AM, a tip for planting the greatly eliminates concern about roots in the soil - use a bulb planter.  When I am transplanting vegetables, I use a bulb planter to make the hole and then set the plant into the hole.  If there are any roots still in the ground, the bulb planter cuts through them as it is twisted into the ground and it creates a nice, clean hole.
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Post  AtlantaMarie on 8/23/2019, 8:01 am

I have one.... Hadn't tried it because I figured the MM was so soft that the roots would just be pushed down. Good to know! Thanks, OG!
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Post  Dan in Ct on 8/23/2019, 8:21 am

OhioGardener, I am going to try cover cropping for the first time and was wonder how to sow the seeds while using several species of cover crop seeds together and thought crossed my mind if I chose the seeds by benefits and depth and then just cover with the depth amount of compost, could this work?
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Post  OhioGardener on 8/23/2019, 8:41 am

@Dan in Ct wrote:OhioGardener, I am going to try cover cropping for the first time and was wonder how to sow the seeds while using several species of cover crop seeds together and thought crossed my mind if I chose the seeds by benefits and depth and then just cover with the depth amount of compost, could this work?

Yes, that could work, depending on the seeds.  My experience has been that the depth of the seed is not extremely important. Guidelines for Winter Rye, for example, says that it should be planted between 1" and 1.5" deep, but it grows equally well if just sowed on top of the ground. Crimson Clover (which you won't be able to use in CT) is to be "barely covered", and Hairy Vetch is to be planted "up to 1/2" deep. 

My method of sowing the winter cover crop is to mix the seed well, broadcast it on the soil, and lightly rake it in.  This year's cover crop will be a mixture of Winter Rye and Hairy Vetch (75% Winter Rye/25% Hairy Vetch), which I will add some inoculant to and broadcast of 4 of the 5 raised beds. The 5th bed will be covered with straw so that I can uncover it early in spring and plant the cold weather crops very early.
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Post  Dan in Ct on 8/25/2019, 8:15 am

OhioGardener, why can't I have Crimson Clover in my mix? Johnny's Selected Seeds has a mix that I was looking at and it has Crimson Clover in the mix. I was thinking a pound would more than do me and probably for a couple of years.

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/farm-seed/cover-crop-mixes/fall-green-manure-mix-cover-crop-seed-2613.html?cgid=cover-crop-mixes#start=1
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Post  OhioGardener on 8/25/2019, 9:00 am

@Dan in Ct wrote:OhioGardener, why can't I have Crimson Clover in my mix? Johnny's Selected Seeds has a mix that I was looking at and it has Crimson Clover in the mix. I was thinking a pound would more than do me and probably for a couple of years.

I probably misspoke, or didn't clearly enunciate, what I meant.  Crimson Clover won't work for you as a Cover Crop because it winter kills and does not regrow in the spring. But, in the mixture you referenced, the Crimson Clover and Ryegrass are nurse crops for the Winter Rye and Hairy Vetch, and then they winter kill and allow the winter hardy plants take over. If you are able to plant early enough, like mid-September, then the nurse crops get a chance to grow enough to develop good roots (this is especially important for clover and peas), and a leaf coverage for the Winter Rye and Vetch. But, if you can't plant until later because of continuing vegetable crops, the nurse crops will not have sufficient time to develop before cold weather.

Interesting that in the link you provided, they recommend sowing a 1.5# per 1,000 sq ft.  While High Mowing Gardens recommends their Winter Rye/Hairy Vetch mix be sowed at 4# per 1,000 sq ft.  The 4# rate is much closer to what I use in order to get a heavy coverage of the soil.  The good news is that you can store Winter Rye & Hairy Vetch seeds for years if they are kept dry, and still get a very high germination rate.

High Mowing Winter Rye/Vetch Mix
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Post  Dan in Ct on 8/26/2019, 9:28 am

OhioGardener, once again thank you for the great advice. I am a student, a beginner at cover cropping but getting seeds local is turning into a chore. My local Agway only has winter rye, no mixes and even that won't be in for a couple of weeks. I am a more of an in hand rather than JIT. We did have a local coop weed and seed store but it closed down a year or two ago, had been in business for over 100 hundred years. Time to Google and expand my search in an effort to stay local. I am taking an online basic organic farming course presently and hope to learn more about cover cropping because it seems they are dialing in the what and when and the benefits of having a specific cover crop schedule.
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Post  OhioGardener on 8/26/2019, 10:05 am

Well, Dan, I've been at it for 6 decades, and still learning. I was raised on the farm back in the day when there was no chemical fertilizer and farmers knew how to rotate crops, use cover crops, and companion planted to improve not only the crops, but the soil as well. An example of a long lost farming technique was double-cropping wheat - Wheat seed was planted in the fall for winter growing, and in early spring it was oversowed with red clover seed. In June or early just the the wheat was harvested, and the straw baled. Then the clover grew into great hay - two cuttings of hay for the winter animal feed. That field provided straw for animal bedding, and hay for animal feed. The clover over-wintered in the field to build the soil, and was turned under in the spring to prepare for corn planting - not fertilizer needed because the clover built the nitrogen in the soil and fed the microbes. All was well.

Fast forward 50 years.....drill anhydrous ammonia into the soil while planting corn seed, which feeds the corn but destroys and/all soil life. Harvest the corn in the fall, and let the field stand bare so that the topsoil erodes. The next spring plant soilbeans, and spray with Roundup to kill the weeds while killing more soil life. And, on it goes...

/End rant

But then, I am a Cover Crop devotee, and have been for a very long time. I don't use fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, etc., so I depend on nature to take care of things.  And, I find that nature is better at it than I am. For example, I can't believe the level of improvement in the soil since I started using compost tea. This simple increase in microbial activity has tremendously improved vegetable production, with fewer and fewer problems with disease or pests. 

We used to have a very good seed store where I could buy my cover crop seeds, but they closed a few years ago after having been in business for 3 generations of the family. The local farm stores only sell seeds in 50# bags, and I don't need 50# of Winter Rye or 50# of Hairy Vetch.  So, I order from High Mowing Seeds as they have free shipping on them.

Meanwhile, don't know if you are familiar with the Smiling Gardener, but he has an interesting article on cover crops: Cover Crops For Gardens – Build Soil And Control Pests.
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Post  countrynaturals on 8/26/2019, 11:37 am

Smiling Gardener wrote:Some of the most popular overwintering legumes include vetch, various types of clover, fava beans, bird’s-food trefoil, cowpeas, and winter peas.
I could munch on peas all year round -- sugar snap in cold weather -- cowpeas in the summer. Never another empty square anywhere. happy turtle

Smiling Gardener wrote:Vetch has very high overall nitrogen production

And awesome for the bees. I love you
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