Cover crop / green manure suggestions - late winter start

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Any suggestions for a cover crop to start and turn over in a few weeks in raised beds and in the cold?

I just threw some dakon radish seeds on the beds.

I'm at a loss because the season is so warm right now but we're still 2 months out from typical last frost and I am sure we'll get snow again. Will some field peas, rye, or vetch germinate in this? How easily will any of those terminate and turn over with a digging fork?
 

Meadowlark

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This would make a good two-way conversation, but I'll rattle off some thoughts in the absence of feedback.

Suggestions depend on what is important to you...that is, what are you after in a short-term cover crop?


Is nitrogen fixing important to you? If so, that kind of narrows down the choices.

Is weed control important to you? Again, answer points in certain directions.

Are you trying to loosen up heavy clay soil? Answer points in a certain direction.

If nitrogen fixing is desired, then your mix should include legume(s). Alfalfa seed will germinate at relatively low temps above 37 deg F . White clover is widely used in early spring covers. Too cold for cow peas, but Austrian peas would be effective. Vetch needs relatively higher temps for good germination...such as one could expect late summer.

If you don't seek nitrogen, a winter cereal rye could be good. Quick, excellent germination and can be sowed thickly for great weed control. It can, given time, establish very extensive root systems making it somewhat challenging to turn under by hand after several months of growing...but it sounds like yours won't be growing that long.

For penetrating hard soil, loosening it up, and bringing nutrients to the surface, it is hard to beat Daikon radish and turnips. Both readily germinate, grow lots of organic matter and send roots will down into the soil. Seeds are cheap also which is important for thickly sowing for weed control...plus you can eat the turnips and radish both tops and bottoms.

Just some thoughts for consideration.
 
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Thanks @Meadowlark.

Weed control is my primary goal with bulk organic matter and nitrogen fixing equal secondary goals. I plan on killing anything by hacking at it and turning it over a day or two before I plant the bed for the season.

My native ground is about 6 inches of top soil over something like beach sand. Below about 12 inches deep it's a clean soft light-tan colored sand. No clay in sight for the 5 feet I've dug down but 5 or 6 miles east of me a different story.

The package I have of Dutch White Clover states it won't germinate well until the soil temp warms up. The lawn articles I've read also state that. Guessing I have a different white clover.

I will head down to the local seed store and see what I can find for winter rye and alfalfa.
 
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Annual ryegrass is commonly put on fields here in the cold as a quick growing cover.
 
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Perfect timing - this popped in my youtube feed:


Growing and terminating cover crops in a raised bed. Here he just uses the tops as mulch and depends on the roots for adding carbon to the soil. Here my only hesitation is his cold weather cover crops will die in the Texas summer where they would thrive in the Michigan summer so I'll have to kill them.
 

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Chop and drop. Nothing new...in fact, savvy gardeners have been doing it for centuries...myself only 1/2 century :)

$2 per bed...not bad but I can beat that getting down to pennies per to produce near perfect soil.
 
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Yeah, I don't see how he got to $2 a bed in cover crop seeds. Maybe the $2 a bed includes the beer he drank while doing this.
 
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Yeah, I don't see how he got to $2 a bed in cover crop seeds. Maybe the $2 a bed includes the beer he drank while doing this.
As they say: everything is bigger in Texas. Maybe his beds are 100'x 200'.
 
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Well this attempt failed 100% due to timing. What did start to fill in was wiped out twice by snow. I knew it would snow still this year. I expect another measurable accumulation or two yet this season. 45 days until average last frost.
 

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