The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Autumn cover crops

Shadows on the gardenAs the days shorten, the sun quickly dips behind the hill and provides only a smattering of sunlight to our upper garden.  I took this picture yesterday at 11:30 am when a third of the upper garden was still in shadow --- no wonder the summer plants like okra are starting to give up the ghost despite this garden's prime soil.

Since the front garden is mostly out of the running until April or May, I decided to see whether I could put at least some of those chilly months to good use by growing cover Buckwheat flowerscrops.  Cool weather cover crops need around 6 to 10 weeks to produce optimal biomass, and our first killing frost is due anytime between early and late October.  Planting cover crops now is another gamble on a warm fall, but any growth at all will be appreciated.

As you may recall, I have four experimental cover crops already planted in various parts of the garden, seeded between mid August and the first of September.  Here are my early thoughts on their productivity:

This week, I put in more oats, radishes, and ryegrass in the front garden, skipping the frost sensitive buckwheat since I'm already pushing the envelope.  I scattered cover crop seeds on the few sweet potato beds not filled with garlic, slipped cover crops in between squash plants soon to keel over, and even seeded an understory below buggy beans and fading okra.  Despite the new cool, wet weather, I went ahead and spread a thin layer of damp compost over the seeds to hasten their sprouting.  I'll let you know how much mulch each crop leaves behind on the soil surface once the real cold weather hits.

Our homemade chicken waterer gives chickens something to peck at other than each other.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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