green manure + more row covers
A green manure is a plant that you grow with the intention of letting it bring up nutrients from deep within the soil (or if it is a nitrogen fixer, of also collecting nitrogen from the air+soil) and then killing it. You turn it into the soil to build organic matter and make its nutrients available to other (more shallowly rooted) plants. This is another funny part that I’m a little unclear of with no-till agriculture. You still need to incorporate the green manure into the soil somehow, right? Otherwise it’s not really dead, in most cases. I can maybe see transplanting, but not direct seeding into a random field of dead hairy vetch. I am going to email my farmer friend Verena about that one…
So anyway, it turns out that green manure seeds are way more expensive that vegetable seeds… because you are supposed to apply like 40 lbs/acre for most of them. Ha ha ha. I ordered several different kinds last night. In addition to adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil, they protect against erosion and shade out weeds. We’re going to use green manures in the parts of the field that get plowed (eventually…) but we aren’t ready to use yet; in between planted rows; and undersown in existing crop rows where appropriate. We are also going to use them in our crop rotations and over the winter.
The one thing I can’t find ANYWHERE is dwarf white clover. I wonder if it goes by a different name or something. It is supposed to be really good for planting in the pathways in between rows because it is short and can stand up to the foot traffic. I’m going to keep looking.
In the same order I got a different kind of hoop for our row covers. It’s basically just a big roll of wire that we cut ourselves. It will make much wider rows than the 18″ stuff we were using before, and it is a lot cheaper. I know that if I were to go out to Home Depot or something (I hate box stores) I could probably find something super cheap and make it myself… But we don’t have a car yet, and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the research and choices as it is, so I’m just sticking to what I know will work from a company that is employee owned (Johnny’s).
Here’s the list: