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

Cover cropping in the Pacific Northwest

Homegrown Humus paperback

I've been hoarding a couple of cover-crop experiments, planning to include them in a revamped version of Homegrown Humus. But, on rereading, I decided that the simplicity of the existing ebook will make it easier for new gardeners to dive into cover cropping. So, I set the current words in stone by turning them into a print book (it's new and cheap --- check it out!) and will be sharing those additional experiments here on the blog instead.

Weedy gardenThe first of my off-farm experimenters was Charity, who homesteads in zone 9 along the coast of Oregon. At the time she was experimenting (18 months ago), her garden consisted of weeds rather than bare soil, so she embarked on what basically consisted of modified pasture cropping --- mowing the grass down close to the soil, broadcasting cover-crop seeds, then raked the seeds into the top of the soil as best she could before waiting to see what would grow.

Unsurprisingly given those tough growing conditions, Charity saw a lot of problems with establishment and growth. The soil was very dry when she planted and nothing sprouted for a couple of weeks until the first fall rains came to call. By that point, rodents and birds had done a number on the seeds (especially the oats), so her stands were moderately to very patchy.

Pasture cropping mustardNevertheless, Charity was able to pick out a few winners that did well despite the initial germination issues combined with low soil fertility. Barley, fava beans, and white mustard all made the cut to be tried again, with the last being handy for early-spring planting since plants bloomed and were ready to mow-kill early in the spring season.

Thanks for sharing, Charity! Hopefully other gardeners in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere will get some ideas from your well-recorded experiments.

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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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