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Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Cover Crops, No Till

Jessica Walliser
Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

Compost
Photo by Jessica Walliser
I filled the back of my Subaru with the free leaf compost that our municipality gives away.

Decision made. I am not going to plant a cover crop in the vegetable garden this year. It’s a stretch for me as I have done it for many years, but a few seasons ago I adopted the no-till method of gardening and have fallen in love with it. I find it’s hard to handle cover crops if you can’t till them come spring.

Two years ago, I planted winter rye, cut it down in the spring and covered it with several inches of old horse manure. It didn’t work nearly as well as tilling it under, and I had to battle rye springing up in the garden all summer long. Planting seeds in the stubble was a big pain, too. 

I still believe that cover crops are so very good for the soil, but I can’t seem to manage them right with the no-till methods I’m using.  So I had to make a choice.

What I will do, however, is start stacking up the organic matter this fall. Typically, I’ve done this in the spring; spreading out layers of newspaper topped with organic matter, then planting right through it.  Works like a charm but it’s a whole bunch of work every spring. 

So, this year, I’m going to mix it up. After every plant has been pulled or harvested, I’m going to do the newspaper and compost/aged manure trick then just let it sit there all winter. What this ideally will mean is I will be completely ready to plant come spring—no need to “wait until the soil can be worked” to plant my radishes, peas and lettuce. I can do it when I’m ready instead of when the weather is. I think first, though, I’d better fill up the tire on the wheel barrow.  

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No Cover Crops, No Till

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Reader Comments
My winter rye did well last year!
Amy, Sophia, NC
Posted: 11/19/2011 6:37:12 PM
lol
bnk96, tustin, MI
Posted: 11/21/2010 7:59:25 PM
Would covering the area with plastic in the fall generate the same results by spring. I know that a small cover of compost/fresh manuer will burn the area with a plastic cover and be safe for transplants or seeds in the spring.
How think do you apply you your compost/aged manure?
David, Collingwood, NS
Posted: 11/15/2010 3:32:08 AM
I planted winter rye for the first time this fall. I can't wait to see how that does. I guess time will tell.
Amy, Sophia, NC
Posted: 11/4/2010 1:32:51 PM
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