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

Summer cover crops in winter

Young buckwheatIn the Deep South, the garden year is entirely different from what most of us are familiar with. My second cover-crop experimenter, Sara, gardens in zone 8 along the gulf coast of Louisiana, and she was able to grow what I think of as summer cover crops in October, November, and December of 2014.

I sent Sara several different types of seeds to play with, but the only ones that sprouted and grew were oilseed radishes, buckwheat, and sunflowers. That last didn't make the cut as a cover crop due to excessive seed predation (the reason we now start our sunflower seedlings inside), but they did manage to keep growing until a hard freeze hit in early January. Buckwheat wasn't quite so hardy, but the plants managed to suppress weeds until the first light frost at the beginning of November.

Oilseed radishes in a forest gardenOilseed radishes are more of a traditional winter cover crop and in previous years, Sara has really enjoyed the amount of biomass the radishes produced in her forest garden. Unfortunately, during the study period the plants didn't do as well in her main garden, probably due to late planting (October 10).

You can read more about Sara in her profile in Trailersteading. Or check out the new print edition of Homegrown Humus for tips on incorporating cover crops into your own growing year.

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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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Funny toes? What kind of critter is that? The fur is short but the toes are long.
Comment by Anonymous Sun Oct 16 19:15:21 2016
MotherNature has been experimenting with cover crops for eons and has already figured out the best species for every given situation. Why not follow her lead? I use weeds as cover crops, green manure and mulch. You can't completely get rid of them anyways, so put 'em to work!
Comment by doc Mon Oct 17 07:35:39 2016

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