Apr 28, 2016 - Suzanne at Peaceful Valley
Cover crop in flower waiting to be turned into green manure
Cover crops planted in the fall are now growing like weeds. But now what do you do with them? They should be turned into Green Manure! Time the knock down of your cover crop to when you will be planting your next crop. In our video on Green Manure, Tricia talks about when and how to turn your cover crop into a fantastic soil additive.
Timing of the Knock Down
The timing is determined by when the next crop will be planted and the life stage of your cover crop. You want to incorporate your cover crops before it goes to seed and then you want to let it decompose so that it can benefit the crop that you’re going to plant afterward. You want allow at least 3 to 6 weeks before planting your next crop. It’s important to wait because your cover crop will be decomposing and during this decomposition process you will temporarily lock up some of the nitrogen in the soil.
A good indicator for when to knock down the cover crop is when one half of the crop is flowering. This allows you to take advantage of maximum biomass.
Speeding up Decomposition
You can speed up the breakdown process of your green manure by adding something like our Biodynamic Field Spray. The spray adds beneficial bacteria that speeds up the break down of the green manure to about two weeks. When using this product, make sure you use dechlorinated water. After application of the spray, turn under the plant matter.
Best Way to Knock Down the Cover Crop?
There really is no best way, depends on the tools you have at hand and the amount of cover crop you want to turn into green manure. You can cut it and compost it, you can weed-eat it or mow it and just let it lay there on the ground or you can till it into the ground.
Tilling it in is the fastest and easiest way to incorporate your cover crops, just roto-till the crops into the ground. The advantages to this method are: faster decomposition and less nitrogen loss into the atmosphere. The disadvantage is, that you don’t get the weed suppression or water conservation while the crop decomposes.
Another method is to cut it and compost it. You can use a hand sickle, a scythe, weed-eater or mower. The advantages are, that you adding finished nutrient rich compost back into the field. This is a great option for raised bed cover cropping. The disadvantage is that it’s more work to cut, compost and then add the compost back into the soil and it can take several months instead of weeks.
And finally you can just mow or weed-eat the cover crop down, let it lay there on the soil surface as a mulch as it decomposes. This will help with water conservation and weed suppression.
The three main methods of cutting down cover crops are: undercutting, mowing and rolling. Undercutting is when you draw a blade under the soil and you slice the cover crop underneath the soil. For mowing you’re going to mow down the crop with your lawn mower a weed whacker or a scythe. This chops the crop up fairly finely and it will decompose quickly. Rolling is basically running your tiller over the plants with the tines turned off. However, this may not always kill the plant and thus not decompose.
No matter what method you choose, the most important thing is that you will be improving your soil with the addition of green manure!
April 14, 2016 - Suzanne at Peaceful Valley
Tricia with her new edible landscaping
Our grandparents or great grandparents did not have to think about what to plant in their landscape, it just made sense to plant something that you can eat. With the shift of populations to urban areas, people stopped using edible plants in the landscape and simply visited their local market for produce. The big, perfectly landscaped lawn and hedges became the norm and in many developments, strict guidelines were developed for what landscaping was “acceptable”. In the urban setting, the…