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Green Manure

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Green Manure

Postby Dumbo » Aug 04, 2012 2:34 am

The fall/winter crop cover.

Been reading up on this and it has my interest to try it this fall. I went through a dizzying amount of info from various sites (CG doesn't seem to have anything on this, BTW).

I was looking at the big producers like Buckwheat, rye and wheat. These would be the ones I guess that would increase the CEC value the most (from what I understood). That is, create the most humus and thus the best nutrient retention. But I'm reading that these ones can cause problems if you don't get it right because if you don't know what you're doing and let it go to seed, it will be a problem due to self-sowing come spring/summer.

So just how hard is it with these 3 types? Anyone try this?

The alternatives, which won't increase the CEC value as much (if any) are the easier Oat, barley, Alfalfa, sweet clover and something called Vetch (which I haven't seen on my garden centres shelves).

Input anyone? This one left me dizzy and confused.

Who has done cover crops and can share their experience? Pro's/Cons?
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Re: Green Manure

Postby B_BQ » Aug 04, 2012 7:45 am

You're a glutton for punishment Marc!! In a good way though.

This is probably something Inge can help out with.

I wouldn't deliberately let crown vetch anywhere near my garden. (Assuming that the crown vetch I'm thinking of is the same crown vetch used as a winter crop).

Once that stuff gets in your garden it will be almost impossible to get rid of. I have bits and pieces as it is, although goodness knows where it came from. It's a bugger. It's often used as a cover on the side of highways, or on a small slope to help control erosion, but IMO it really doesn't belong anywhere near a home garden.

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Re: Green Manure

Postby davefrombc » Aug 04, 2012 11:40 am

I think most here that use a fall cover crop use rye.. Seeded later in the fall so it sprouts and greens up , but doesn't have time to mature.. In spring it is plowed / tilled in. It never gets a chance to mature and form seed heads . The same would be done with any cover crop for green manure. Plant late to allow it to grow a good green crop; turn in in spring before it matures. I think any of the grains would be fine .. Not so sure with rhizome producers like clover..It doesn't need to seed like grains do.. it may be able to regrow from the chopped up roots if you till, or it isn't buried deep enough if you dig to turn it over .
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Re: Green Manure

Postby Dumbo » Aug 04, 2012 3:14 pm

B_BQ wrote:You're a glutton for punishment Marc!

I like to try new things first. Curse at myself later. ;)

B_BQ wrote:This is probably something Inge can help out with.

I sure hope so. Cuz after an hour or so of looking these up I was left drooling on myself with what the uni's were saying.

I want to aim for CEC values. But as I understand it, only the trouble ones or hard to manage ones (Buckwheat, rye and wheat) are worth it due to their bulk.

If vetch is trouble, I wonder why the recommend it as easier to manage over Buckwheat, rye and wheat? But if you have it and wish you didn't, then I don't want it. That's for sure.

Or another way to look at it, if vetch is so much easier to handle, can you imagine the pain in the butt Buckwheat, rye and wheat are?

davefrombc wrote:I think most here that use a fall cover crop use rye.. Seeded later in the fall so it sprouts and greens up , but doesn't have time to mature.. In spring it is plowed / tilled in. It never gets a chance to mature and form seed heads . The same would be done with any cover crop for green manure. Plant late to allow it to grow a good green crop; turn in in spring before it matures.


Yeah I forget which one out of Buckwheat, rye and wheat they state you have to follow a certain "bug date" which will be mid Sept to mid Oct before planting or you will give yourself problems in the spring. But, from what I read last night they say to let it bulk up and grow high. Then I would cut it down around April 1st because once you turn these ones into the soil some chemical is released and any seeds you plant won't sprout. This take 4-6 weeks for this seed killing chemical to dissipate from your green manure. That would then leave me with a 2 week buffer to plant by the end of May.

So yeah, April 1 to turn it in would be my cut-off date, after that I could have problems with zero sprouting/germination, apparently.

davefrombc wrote:Not so sure with rhizome producers like clover..It doesn't need to seed like grains do.. it may be able to regrow from the chopped up roots if you till, or it isn't buried deep enough if you dig to turn it over .

That I don't know, but, I do recall Eeyore and some other people saying this when a woman in these forums was invaded with some type of clover (red clover I think). So makes sense.

So I'll put clover in the vetch category and ignore those two.
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Re: Green Manure

Postby davefrombc » Aug 04, 2012 5:31 pm

Most cover crops are used by large scale farms where the cover crop is plowed in in spring. That buries the cover crop fairly deeply and limits the problem of the cover crop regrowing . Not many bother with one in a home garden.. Digging in your lawn clippings and compost would give much the same benefit as a cover crop would give.. and be a lot less fuss and bother .
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Re: Green Manure

Postby Dumbo » Aug 04, 2012 5:55 pm

To be blunt, grass, leafs etc are pretty much nutrientless. It's miniscule. It's green-washing at its best to make you behave like a good little sheep. Not worth my bother. I leave the grass where I cut it. Leafs go to the city.

Not to mention it adds zero to CEC value.

Takes the bigger stuff, above, to do this.

In addition, the stuff above does a heck of a lot more:
- It will uptake and bind all the nutrients that are too deep for regular garden plants
- It will bind all the nutrients that will be going to waste over winter, and then re-release it in spring/summer at root zone.
- It will prevent loss from the freeze-thaw cycle
- It will prevent loss from run off
- It adds to the CEC value
- I didn't fully understand this part (yet), but it also aids in the prevention of certain types of fungus/bacteria detrimental to your garden plants. Breaks some sort of cycle.
- The longer roots helps break up clay and thus uptakes more nutrients bringing it to veggie root zones.

Grass/leaf clippings don't do any of the above. Pee has more nutrient value than grass clippings. Do people store their pee to toss on a garden? Actually some do! But I won't.

But yeah you raise a point about how deep this has to be dug in. I get the feeling a regular rototiller won't do the job. I seem to recall 20-inches minimum, but I no longer remember.

Grass clipping & leafs? Not me. Maybe one day if I get into composting. Wife is leaning towards this though. So I told her she can take care of it. She balked at that. So, nope.

But yeah, per some of the uni's, it seems many home gardeners are doing this. So I figure why not.

EDIT:
Oops, correction:
I read that for the regular Joe/Jane home-gardener, these things have to be cut up first because it will wind around your rototiller blades. So yeah, a rototiller will work, but you have to cut it up first.

Alternative method it to mulch it with the lawnmower. then till it in.

I'll have to look up depth when I get a chance.
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Re: Green Manure

Postby kelly_m » Aug 04, 2012 9:03 pm

I think it is Sharon that uses Buckwheat as Green Manure.

I have no opinions other that I was going to do it last year, but used the veggie plot as a holding garden instead!

Feed stores carry bulk of most of those crops...even in smaller amounts but you only need a very small amount....one sandwich baggie does about 1/2 acre of clover.

Our store being a feed store and a garden centre...we carry allo of the above green manure crops!

But that doesn't really help you does it?

I agree with Brenda though.....vetch has a nasty taproot....so even if it is a nitrogen fixing plant it would be more of a pain in the astilbe!
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Re: Green Manure

Postby davefrombc » Aug 04, 2012 9:09 pm

I have to leave my grass clippings where they fall now since my dog ate the grass catcher bag last year.. But its worth revisiting the value of leaves and grass clippings; as well as how much work a compost bin is. I have two of the plastic bins you can get from the city for home composters.. All my kitchen waste goes into one..every now and then I shovel some of the finished, or semi- finished compost out of the one into the second where it further breaks down. From there , I take it out as needed to mix up a batch of potting soil. Since I live alone I don't produce a great amount of waste so with the reduction in the compost bins I have yet to have them fill up on me.The primary one does get about 3/4 full over winter; but it quickly goes down in summer.

When you look at the NPK values of compost or leaves and grass clippings, it isn't impressive at all.... but the value and effect they have on compost production and garden growth appear far out of proportion to what the numbers suggest .
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Re: Green Manure

Postby Dumbo » Aug 04, 2012 9:42 pm

davefrombc wrote:When you look at the NPK values of compost or leaves and grass clippings, it isn't impressive at all....

It's useless when you look at it. It's not like we super-feed our lawns. And those that do use chemicals. I don't want that. It's worthless. At most, and only if you work it into the soil, there will be an oxygen boost which on it's own will boots a plant, and something about carbon dioxide transport when it decomposes. But there isn't anything of value in that stuff.

Maaaybe when you start tossing in apples and other garbage it picks up more from that. But leafs and grass are useless. I won't waste my time saving the planet with that stuff. heh.

But yeah.. I do fill this city bin up 3/4 of the way or many times full every week.
Bin.JPG
Bin.JPG (14.59 KiB) Viewed 6349 times


Maybe due to the volume it might be worth it. But then I would have to:
a) separate meat/dairy products
b) remove paper products
c) have a couple of small kitchen container things going for what stays here and what goes in the city compost
d) Buy or build 3 composters (maybe I could get away with 2, but doubt it) and try and find some place for that.
e) take care of those composters
f) shovel that crap into the garden, or bag it till it could be used.

I don't need the extra work. Know what I mean. I'll leave that for the tree-huggers.

But I will try this green manure thing and see how it turns out. But, I don't want to plant something where I'll be cursing the day I did it either.

Kelly, yeah the green-crop seeds are dirt cheap. One bag would likely be good for 3 years. But which to get? That is the thing.

kelly_m wrote:allo

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EDIT:
So that leaves me with:
(Apparently, easier managed ones): Oat, barley, Alfalfa
(Apparently, hard to manage ones): Buckwheat, rye and wheat

At least we knocked two of them off the list.

EDIT 2:
Apparently Alfalfa needs to be planted much earlier than Sept. So it's off the list.
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Re: Green Manure

Postby Dumbo » Aug 05, 2012 3:31 am

Seems the best ones are the sweet clover and alfalfa. But wrong time to grow these it appears. There is also a specific mustard type that packs a bit of a punch, but again, wrong time of the year for this.

Oat:
Weed-reducing – easy tilling – lots of bulk - adds biomass - suppresses weeds - prevents erosion, scavenges excess nutrients -

barley:
Weed-reducing -- fast-growing - lots of bulk – shallow roots - VERY GOOD for taking up and storing excess nitrogen - increasing organic matter and improving soil structure - and suppressing weed growth - exceptional erosion control. Prone to fungal disease in very wet winters.

Buckwheat:
Accumulates phosphorus, Fast growing - quick breakdown

Winter Rye:
Protects soil in winter – deep roots - reduces weeds

Winter Wheat:
Same as Rye.

Maybe I'll do a mix of stuff.
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