> Composted mulch has a lot of advantages over cover crops. First it doesn't
> use up soil moisture. This is not a problem in an irrigated garden but if
> are raising dryland in a less than 30 inch per year rain fall area it makes
> a difference. With composted mulch you are not tying up nutrients from your
> soil in mulch. You are adding nutrients from the mulch.
Well, actually my question was is it really an either mulch *or* cover
crop situation. It seems to me a combo can be great, but perhaps it
depends on climate. Really, I've been surprised to see folks disparaging
cover crops *over* mulches, when I've found they work great in combination
for me. Course as I did mention I don't have the luxury of a super thick
mulch, but even if I did I can't see why I wouldn't grow cover crops.
Again maybe it is a climate thing. WE've cool, wet springs, falls and
winters. Course our summers are dry, often, though cooler than most.
In portland, oregon I never need to water cover crop from say Sept. thru
to some time late june. This means I seed a fall cover and wait for the
rainy day, which is often enough :-). And, if I can get a summer cover in
by mid-june I don't need to water it either. To be sure it may get wilty
as our soils dry out, but not very wilty...It seems to me that
especially in dry climates you'd want composted mulch to be covered by
something and why not a cover crop? I don't think of cover crops as taking
nutrients from my soil, I think of them as holding the nutrients in
reserve. And, I still wonder what more would be lost in my rainy winter
with a mulch with no cover crop growing on it and capturing some
nutrients. I also really appreciate the insect life cover crops *and*
mulch together promote.
I don't know maybe I'm just addicted to beds of constant green. Right now
I've got vetch from last year on a fallow bed, awaiting a rain which will
cause it to regerm. I've got fresh stands of buckwheat and old stands of
buckwheat planted in May which are dropping seed and like the vetch
waiting for rain. (It's been a dry July and August...quite dry.) I've got
a mongo crazy stand of cowpeas....Indeed, I consider most all of my
plantings, whether directly harvested or not as a cover crop...judge
them by cover crop standards...Are they covering the surface, Are they
lush and green, are they home to insects and...?
In spring cover crops provide me with an instant mulch at transplanting
I guess I just am not able to wrap my brain around the idea that bare
mulching *is better* than some sort of mulch/cover crop system and
depending on how you plant and manage the cover better than just plain
old cover crops (though lots of og folks apply some additional og matter
at some point). And, indeed, cover crops *are* cheaper for me. I splurge
on mulching materials like straw and alfalfa and leaf mould (and collect
leaves myself) but cover crops are time and cost effective and in my
climate, my gosh by June Fava beans are 6-8 feet tall (I tried a small
seeded variety which was supposed to be shorter, hoping for managability
and they still reached over my 5'3" head.) Vetch and Peas are just out of
control...they make a sea of tangled vines which when grown with Favas
loop back and forth and when left to their own devices pile up high, we're
talking several feet of dense growth. That's a lot of future mulch/og
matter/compost. Course this a climate chock full of darn tasty food crops
masquerading as cover crops through the winter months, mostrous leeks,
gigantic brassicas with purple and green heads, beets with amazing top
growth thru the winter, etc. etc.
Oh well, guess I'm a diehard fan of those out of control just rearing to
grow cover crops...
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