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@bgardner wrote:If I were to plant a cover crop, like beans, legumes, buckwheat, alfalfa, etc., would I plow the plants into the soil after they reach maturity? (and I've harvested whatever goodness from them to eat all fall and winter) I've considered doing this with my garlic area, but don't know if you pull up the plants (and compost them for later) or just plow them under.
I try to do no dig/no till gardening as much as possible in order to maintain the Living Soil Web as much as possible. So, I prefer to just chop & drop the cover crop, rather than digging it in. I prefer to use annuals rather than biennial or perennial crops, since they are much easier to kill when done with them. My favorite summer cover crops are Crimson Clover and Buckwheat. My favorite winter cover crop is Winter Rye (not ryegrass) with Hairy Vetch.
Crimson Clover and Buckwheat are both very fast summer growers (I don't plant them together, but use one or the other). With both plants if they are cut off at the soil level soon after they bloom, but before they set seed, they will quickly die. The cut off tops will much the soil and decompose, while the roots will slowly decompose and loosen the soil. Both feed the microbes and earthworms.
Winter Rye with Hairy Vetch is an excellent winter cover crop as it starts growing in the fall, and then the tops die back after being frozen. But, the roots continue growing all winter long, and will go down as much a 6' to 8' deep into the soil. In the spring the top will start re-growing, and is a fast grower. If you are able to allow it to grow until they start setting seed, it can be cut off at soil level and the plants will die. If you need the garden space before the rye starts setting seed, it can be turned under and it will die. Either way, the plants will need 2 to 3 weeks to decompose before planting the bed.
With any of the chop & drop cover crops, I plant through the mulch formed by the tops that were cut off. I may add compost to the top of the mulch before planting, depending on what I have available.
Never plant without a bucket of compost at your side.
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Nice! When I planted mine, there was a cold snap, so hope I get some!
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Had they sprouted when you got the cold snap? Are you going to mulch them?
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