Thursday, September 24, 2009
One of the benefits of so many of our trips is seeing the plants other people select , grow and manage. At Old Salem (Winston-Salem, NC), many of the historic gardens have been restored. The soil has been amended for over two hundred years with rich compost - and with nitrogen-producing plants such as this crimson clover.
We saw so much of this, millet and especially buckwheat growing in the gardens alongside the fall cole crops of spinach, lettuce, cabbage, turnips and more. When I used to mini-farm our own gardens, I used cover crops, like this crimson clover, to fix oxygen-born nitrogen into the soil, and then, after the clover had flowered but before it had set seed, tilled the entire crop into the soil to enrich it even further. By the time I was ready to plant in the spring, the soil was significantly amended and ready to nurture another season of crops.
"Green manuring" involves planting particular plants to enhance the soil. Benefits include:
*Crops act as a soil cover to prevent erosion by wind or water
*The crop acts as a mulch, and
* Pest Management
One can use non-green plants such as
Millet or Buckwheat (Fagopyrum sagittatum) -- or green plants such as Hairy Vetch, Beans, Field Peas, Clover (such as crimson) and vetch for winter cover. For summer green manures: Cowpeas,Soybeans, Sweetclover or
Velvet Beans (Mucuna pruriens).
I've used some of these other cover crops for the same benefits - but I have to admit that my favorite is the crimson clover ... not only does it make my soil and plants happy - but I find it charmingly beautiful!
We've had a week of rain and our soil is mighty soggy ... but I know the plants and our acquifers are being refreshed.
Have a great day!