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No till cover crops on a small scale

Discussion in 'Lawns & Landscaping' started by Livestock lover, Mar 18, 2019.

  1. Mar 18, 2019
    Livestock lover

    Livestock lover Chillin' In The Garden

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    Hey,

    So I want to plant cover crops without tilling. Have any of you guys used silage tarps to kill back the weeds before planting cover crops or vegetables? This is for a garden.
     
  2. Mar 18, 2019
    flowerbug

    flowerbug Garden Addicted

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    are you speaking of this for planting vegetables this coming spring or summer?

    please add your location (roughly if you aren't willing to be too specific) as it may make a lot of difference how people respond.

    up here the ground is still frozen in spots and trying to smother would not work for the coming season nor could i be planting any cover crops now.

    a tarp won't smother weeds quickly enough IME. to smother a garden area to clear it of weeds can take a few years depending upon what plants are there that i'm trying to smother.

    instead for the coming season you can try to clear spaces where you'll be planting your veggies and then try to smother the rest of the area using a few layers of cardboard and something to hold it down, but you may still find some weeds coming up through the holes in the cardboard along with the veggies you'll have to keep after.

    cover crops will not work well either for an area that hasn't already been cleared. i use several depending upon the season and how long the space might be empty until i plan on planting something else (field peas, buckwheat, radishes, turnips, winter rye (the grain - not the grass, winter wheat are just some of them).
     
  3. Mar 19, 2019
    seedcorn

    seedcorn Garden Master

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    Area of country, cover crops intended, weeds that you are fighting, vegetables you want to grow?

    Will you till ground before planting or thinking no till just put the plants in holes?
     
  4. Mar 20, 2019
    ducks4you

    ducks4you Garden Master

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    I have seen a program where they clean out, then cover with a black tarp, carefully tucking the sides and corners in so it resembles a mattress, then leave it for 6 weeks, the idea being that you will kill the weed seeds. As I recall it was being used to sterilize a previously cool season crop bed for a Fall planting. If I did it I would want to use some 2 x 4's on all sides to keep the wind from removing it,and maybe some bricks on them to add extra weight.
     
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  5. Mar 20, 2019
    Livestock lover

    Livestock lover Chillin' In The Garden

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    Thanks for the replies.Basically this is the situation.

    Location is Cariboo British Columbia. There is still a for and a half of score on the ground.

    This year I plan to grow potatoes, peas, and cucumbers. Probably around 4000 sq ft of garden.

    My main quesion is how to get the soil prepared for planting a winter cover crop after the vegetables are done. I don't want to till and I'm not sure if tarping kills soil life and structure. My main concern is soil health.
     
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  6. Mar 20, 2019
    seedcorn

    seedcorn Garden Master

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    Shred what is left. Sow seeds on top. Think turnips-good ground cover and good to eat. Plus winter kills.
     
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  7. Mar 20, 2019
    Livestock lover

    Livestock lover Chillin' In The Garden

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    Sow seeds on top? Do you think they would be able to get a hold through the existing plant matter?
     
  8. Mar 21, 2019
    seedcorn

    seedcorn Garden Master

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    So your seeds, then shred the dead plants on top. If you get rain, they will come.
     
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  9. Mar 21, 2019
    flowerbug

    flowerbug Garden Addicted

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    i don't know what "There is still a for and a half of score on the ground." means...

    concern for soil health is a good concern to have. :)

    since i primarily do low till practices i can probably help you somewhat, but also keep reading and studying. it's well worth the continue efforts to understand... :)

    4000 sq ft all in one general location? (like 40x100?)

    cucumbers are the easiest thing we grow here. 12-15 plants is plenty for us and only uses a few hundred square feet. we get 50-100 quarts of pickles and plenty for eating fresh too or using in other things. depending upon what varieties you use and how often you pick can really influence quantity of results.

    peas and taters. yum! :)

    ok, back to the issue though... after you are done with your first crop you can pick the crops which you'd like to try. i would recommend trying several different ones as you can then learn more and also have diversity in case some don't work out as you'd expect. some seeds are pretty small and will have a harder time getting going in stubble or heavy mulch, others won't. so it may depend upon how much work you plan on putting in after the harvest. i usually bury all surface debris because that is Mom's preference (she doesn't think stubble or stems looks very tidy). she also doesn't like mulches. :( so i have to work around this by picking small areas, digging a hole or trench and burying debris. so the worms can get at it and it isn't wasted or burned.

    this does not disturb the whole garden but often it is between 1-10% for most gardens so it is not compromising or changing the soil structure or bacteria/fungi soil community. the only thing i don't like is that it removes the surface cover that some worm species like (the large night crawlers).

    what i also like to do is to leave one perennial plant every so often in a corner or scattered in a garden space. so when i've scraped the veggie plant debris and buried it there is still some place for the good garden bugs to hang out until the next plants are grown (either later that year or the next spring). this way i do not usually have bug problems that often aside from the Japanese Beetles, but then i also don't grow some plants like cabbages because i don't want to have to put up nets or use sprays (even those considered organic - i'd just rather grow other things instead).

    for larger stubble layers i think buckwheat and field peas will work ok, and probably the winter wheat and winter rye and also diakon radishes because they have bigger seeds/sprouts. turnips are smaller seeded and it might be a little harder to get them started. i just rake the space slightly with a four prong rake (just enough to give the seeds a spot to get caught in so not very deep at all - in the case of the winter wheat and winter rye i will scrape a little before and after to get some of the seeds mixed in just the top few mm of dirt and then keep moist).

    the issues with the winter wheat and winter rye is that they need to be turned under in the spring several weeks before planting - but i really like them because they are able to grow through part of the fall and spring when other plants including weeds might want to be growing so they can help keep a garden clearer of weeds and they look pretty nice as grasses in their own right if you get moments of not enough snow to cover the space. which means you are harvesting free energy from the sun and those plant roots are feeding your soil community and also breaking up the soil if there are issues of compaction or too heavy clay or ... all those roots will break down and it's one of the best things i've seen for the heavy clay soil we have here.

    the other thing i mentioned before was layers of cardboard. it will smother plants but allows oxygen through so the worms and other soil creatures will survive. wood lice, worms, etc. break it down eventually and it keeps weeds from having an easy way to grow.
     
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  10. Mar 21, 2019
    flowerbug

    flowerbug Garden Addicted

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    this is often touted for during the hotter parts of the season. putting a tarp down now for six weeks would not accomplish much of anything here.

    and i still doubt for many of the grasses and weeds i have here that even six weeks in the middle of summer would accomplish what is needed. some of the weeds/grasses i have to smother can take two to three years before the roots are exhausted.

    like many garden techniques, results will vary... :)
     

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