Friday, October 3, 2014

Cover crops should play an important role in high calorie gardening

I tend to thing organic when I defined high calorie gardening. So cover crops play an important role in this concept. It is also an area not very well understood by many people thinking about growing their own food but with little experience. So here is some information to get you stated. So be sure to check out the roller/crimper at the end of this blog. Earth tools is the only one I know of who is making a garden sized unit. This goes very well with the jab planters and manual transplanters I blogged about before. I still have to work out collecting cover crop seeds. I am working on that and hope to address it in another blog. So far it looks like the largest seed crop you may be growing if you are not growing grains is your cover crop seeds.

Enter the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory's Cover Crop Chart.  This publication replaces depth with breadth, presenting the highlights of 46 cover crop species both pictorially and in the form of a bulleted list.

Cover Crop Species and Descriptions

Cover Crop (340) in Organic Systems March 2014 National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)
California Implementation Guide

No-till Roller/Crimper Plans
One of the key elements of our organic no-till research is a front-mounted cover-crop roller that knocks down a weed-suppressing mat that can be planted through all in one quick pass.


Introduction to cover crop rolling and the VAUSDA crimper roller demonstration project
Manual Crimper-Roller

“Crimp-Rolling a cover crop does NOT work for all types of vegetable crops to be planted into (for example, Lettuces, Greens, Carrots, Radishes, etc. cannot deal with the coarse “mulch” residue, and need a “cleaner” seedbed...such as you would get by flail-mowing the cover crop and working it into the soil), but for crops that it will work with, this tool offers an extremely simple and totally reliable design, and the crimp-rolled method offers the least possible soil disturbance (and therefore most intact soil structure).

The Rodale Institute has been experimenting with designs for transplanters (for vegetable starts) and seed drills to plant through the cover crop mulch/residue.  As far as we can determine, these tools may be cost-effective for the scale of agriculture done with full-size tractors (large acreage fields), but they are NOT cost- or time-effective for the scale of agriculture performed by walk-behind equipment.  Therefore, planting through the residue is best done manually.  The weed suppression and moisture retention the mulch provides (not to mention the addition of organic matter to the soil as it decomposes) more than offset the labor of planting through the residue.”

However, I have already posted two blogs one on Jab planters that should work and another on manual transplanters that should work just fine with this system. With the exception of carrots which I will later blog about because of their storage ability, most high calorie crops can grow in crimped cover crops.

Some unusual plants for use as a cover crop

Burdock is a biannual plant meaning it will only seed in the second year. It produces a deep taproot that can bring up nutrients from deep down. This large taproot is needed so burdock can over winter. Late emerging seedlings will not grow large enough to produce the root reserves necessary for overwintering.
To kill second year burdock simply mow it down after flower stalk forms or harvest the flower stalks for eating.

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