Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

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Nearly A Moose
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Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Nearly A Moose » Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:16 pm

I have a small 4x6 ft raised bed that I built a few years ago in my fenced in and otherwise paved or graveled over backyard (urban rowhome). I've thus far grown regular garden vegetables using the square foot gardening method, but young kids and increasing job responsibilities mean tending it is too far down my list of priorities. I also don't want to rip it up because I like the idea of it, it's literally a ton of dirt I hauled back there and would have to do something with, I'd have to gravel or pave over the space, and I'd like to turn back to it if I could later. (I think the sunk cost fallacy is at work here too, tbh.) But I need to do something so it doesn't weed over.

I'm considering planting a "cover crop" of some sort next year (or over winter if that's when it should be planted). The goal would be to put it in a holding pattern, prevent it from being an eyesore full of weeds, and be something I could easily remove without tons of volunteers emerging if I want to reclaim it as a vegetable garden. Bonus points if it smells nice or is functional (large herb bed??).

Any suggestions?
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

itstoomuch
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by itstoomuch » Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:23 pm

Lavender, fava beans, clovers, wheat, chives, bunching onions, garlic rosemarys, sage, thymes, mints. Bush beans, peas, hops.
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privateer79
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by privateer79 » Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:00 pm

itstoomuch wrote:
Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:23 pm
Lavender, fava beans, clovers, wheat, chives, bunching onions, garlic rosemarys, sage, thymes, mints. Bush beans, peas, hops.
I like the list, but I'd worry about clover or mint being hard to erradicate afterward....

jbranx
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by jbranx » Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:27 pm

Rye grass varieties work well usually. I've planted it both in TN and CO and got good garden results. Crown Vetch is another option if you have lots of water and want a great nitrogen depositor with deep roots. It blooms in the summer and looks pretty nice, easily chokes weeds, and isn't too difficult to till up if you decide to garden again. Easy to kill the volunteer shoots with straw or hay. But rye works well, better than clover in my experience.

Another option is native grasses if you're going to quit gardening. Hycrest Crested Wheatgrass is very drought tolerant, grows and spreads in clumps and makes a bountiful seed bunch for birds and animals. I've grown it in the Rockies where rainfall is less than 12 in/yr. There are many varieties, most of which will whip out any weeds or "cheat grasses." See this guide from USDA:

https://nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_ ... g04842.pdf

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celia
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by celia » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:30 am

Why not level it out, then cover it with a tarp or heavy-duty plastic. Use bricks or rocks to hold it down. It will grow some weeds, depending on what kind of seeds are already in the soil, but without water and sun, growth will be kept to minimum. The winter weather in your area will also have an impact.

Mike Scott
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Mike Scott » Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:54 am

mulching on top once or twice a year will keeping improving the soil quality and keep down the weeds or plant some perennial flowers or vegetables that you enjoy

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mrc
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by mrc » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:11 am

Celia is onto something. Any natural crop requires attention. Nothing growing will be weed-free maintenance-free and patiently wait for you to attend. Cover the area with thick black plastic and weigh down with block/boards neatly spaced out. It will look OK and be there when you have the time to resume. No tilling required. You can even place a couple potted plants there, mums, herbs, anything you have time to tend.

Sunlight heating up the plastic should kill off anything that would grow under the plastic the year it's down, and after you remove the plastic as well. That is a herbicide-free way to (partially) sterilize a bed.
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mouses
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by mouses » Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:41 am

NO MINT. You will be eradicating it for years. No oregano either, same reason, although it does not seem to spring up everywhere in a 50 foot radius like mint.

I would put in perennials of some sort. If they are planted densely enough, weeds should be minimal. Herbs, flowers for the bees, and so on.

Also, when the kids get old enough, you have slave labor available :-) Okay, pay them something. Besides our allowances, we used to be able to earn extra mowing the lawn, etc. Or hire a neighborhood kid to weed periodically. Maybe your babysitter or a sib of same would be interested.

Fiddle-Bow
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Fiddle-Bow » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:17 am

Try Austrian Winter peas for your Winter cover crop. They add nitrogen to the soil and they taste good eaten raw or steamed.

https://motherearthnews.com/organic ... 0z14onzmat

mostly_lurking
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by mostly_lurking » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:14 pm

I'd suggest planting "chocolate chip ajuga". At least where I am, it spreads densly so that it blocks out weeds effectively.
While some varieties are considered invasive, I find that this variety is easy to pull out if/when you want to.
If/when you do get time, you can easily pull up a few square inches of plugs to plant something hardy in the middle of it.

For example, planting, growing and harvesting garlic is super easy where I am, as long as I remember to plant and harvest at the right time (you can plant now in some parts of the US). The garlic can grow up through the ajuga and the ajuga will keep out the weeds. I suspect that you could do the same for flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips, or hyacinths, that are also relatively low maintance.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:02 pm

Fava beans are a good cover crop for nitrogen. Otherwise garlic and onions are super easy to grow. Carefree almost.

jbuzolich
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by jbuzolich » Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:55 pm

Been looking for the same thing for our garden beds but can't find a source. I had heard hairy vetch was a good cover but we're open to most things. No stores seem to carry seeds or starters for cover crops.

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Flobes
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Flobes » Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:14 pm

DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:02 pm
... and onions are super easy to grow. Carefree almost.
When I want to fill my raised beds with very little effort and great results, I grow onions.

Marvelous onion starts, plus all the resources you'll need to become an "onion farmer" in your garden bed:
Dixondale Onions
Very reasonably priced, great service. My favorites are Red Torpedo Tropea onion, Candy onion, and Lancelot leeks. Grown very densely planted. Plant them springtime, and with ample water and sunshine and no other effort, you'll have greens all summer and onions in the fall.

Bonus: All your neighbors who have too much lettuce, tomatoes and zucchini will want to trade for your beautiful onions!

FWIW Winter cover for my garden beds is Snow!

mouses
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by mouses » Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:22 pm

jbuzolich wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:55 pm
Been looking for the same thing for our garden beds but can't find a source. I had heard hairy vetch was a good cover but we're open to most things. No stores seem to carry seeds or starters for cover crops.
You want to look online, not in stores. Imho, unusual seeds will not be found in stores.

https://reneesgarden.com/blogs/gard ... ter-garden

http://johnnyseeds.com/growers-libr ... crops.html

Nearly A Moose
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Nearly A Moose » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:50 pm

OP here, popping back in to say thank you for all the recommendations (have been entertaining company - they're not quite as into BH...). I'll do some research on my growing zone (7) and will see what I can come up with. Maybe just a plank and tarp...
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

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Tamarind
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Tamarind » Mon Oct 30, 2017 8:38 pm

In that growing zone, I second vetch or onions/garlic. Or perhaps a salvia? Lots of flowers but not too persistent at the root, and fills in well.

Birdie55
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Birdie55 » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:01 am

I live in California and use a soil builder cover crop in my home garden and the demonstration garden where I work. Peaceful Valley Farms
(groworganic.com) sells a cool season soil builder cover crop and a warm season one also. Depending on were you live, the cool season should be planted already or soon and cut down 4 - 6 weeks before planting your warm season garden.

They have quite a chart of cover crop in their catalog, not sure if it is online or not. The soil builder cool season variety has bell beans, oats, two kind of vet and peas. You can use an inoculant to help with the nitrogen fixing or omit it . Either way, it will add a lot of green to your garden when you cut it down. We use sheers or an electric hedge trimmer to cut the cover drop down in roughly two inch chunks. Then turn the green matter into the soil to let it break down.

It definitely is an easy way to add a bunch of raw compost into your garden. I grow cover crop in most of my beds each winter..

barnaclebob
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by barnaclebob » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:19 am

Onions or garlic + mulch. You might still be able to plant the garlic now and wont need to do anything until ~July. Otherwise buy some onion starts in spring and you'll be good until August or September.

Next down the list is strawberries for me.

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Pajamas
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by Pajamas » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:25 am

Call or drop by your county extension office and ask what cover crop is recommended if there are is no information available on the internet specific to your area.

If there is a gardening column in the newspaper, that's another good source of information. If there are no past columns that address it, shoot an email to the columnist and ask.

forgeblast
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by forgeblast » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:29 am

mint has aspirations of taking over the world once its there you cannot get rid of it. a winter rye grass would be good, we also used buckwheat (zone 5). watch putting "hay" over it for the winter since it will reseed all the hay/weeds. Maybe just get a bale of straw, you can easily till it back in the spring.

mxs
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Re: Need a good cover crop recommendation for home garden

Post by mxs » Tue Oct 31, 2017 8:36 am

I have had incredible luck with Chives and Green Onions. In fact, those are the only things I have ever successfully grown from seeds or starter bulbs. That amount of space would be way too much Chives/Onions for one household, so maybe some trading or giving away of items would be in order.

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