Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Covercrop Update

With our recent (and thankfully substantial) rains those of us who are not looking out at new ponds in their fields are probably seeing quite a bit of green in our pastures, vineyards and gardens.That green could be exactly what you've been waiting for, or a new mass of weeds.

If you planted a mixture such as our organic Biobuilder, you should see a lush diverse assortment of pulses and cereals from a few inches high to up to two feet tall by this time of year. If you planted Vinemate, you might feel disappointed by it's meager few centimeters of growth. Don't worry. Vinemate is a permanent covercrop mixture; intended for years of growth with remarkably low maintenance. Biobuilder is exactly as its name suggests; a rapid growing green manure blend intended to create biomass and add organic matter.

The key to understanding the spring time management of covercrops is knowing that the faster a plant grows, the shorter its lifespan and the longer a plants lifespan is, the longer it will take to establish itself.

BioBuilder is about to blow up with these recent rains. You should try to mow or trim it back once things dry out a bit. This will return green leafy material to the soil to become green manure. Letting bio-builder grow to seed is a bad idea as it can rob nutrients from your soil both while seeding out and again during the decomposition process. Mow again in late spring; your Biobuilder will have lived out it's lifespan.

Your little Vinemate shoots are fine. It is busy building a strong root system to survive the hot dry summers to come. You are probably seeing small plants with two to four leaves that look nothing like the weeds that can be towering above it. Come March, many of those weeds will flower and at that time, you can safely mow vinemate, but no lower than six inches. This will injure the weeds and release the perennial plants. By June you'll have dead weeds and green vinemate, happily creating biomass in its roots.

Extra special thanks to John Snider from PGG Seeds for information and motivation on this blog!

1 comment:

  1. Hey BP. I used to lurk on GNN, DJ_Farnaby. The one that asked you for a guerrilla homestead guide... I was wondering if I could interview you for my senior seminar project in anthropology on climate change/peak oil/collapse, and building resilient communities in response. my email is jdauster@skidmore.edu

    (dunno if you check this or guerrillacamping more)