Question to my Readers: Cover Crop

Shot of trees and roof of new house, April 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

We’re back from a week in Toronto, mostly recuperating at my Aunt and Uncle’s place. Soon, I promise, there will be news about Amie’s now incessant “why?” question, her need for getting naked to go “swimming” at the most inopurtune moments, potty-training (almost complete), and more puzzling (with 24 pieces) and drawing (clothes are now in the picture as well!). And maybe I’ll reveal some about my novel (been getting requests)…

But first, a question to my readers (well, some of them, the farmers and gardeners in particular)…

One of our first priorities at the house is sowing a cover crop on the soil that was disturbed and left bare by the installation of the septic system. A lot of that beautiful dark humus-like topsoil – years if not decades of leaves had been allowed to stay and degrade where they fell – has unfortunately been turned under, and in many places what is at the surface now is light brown subsoil.

So: what should I sow to protect that bare soil from washing or blowing away, and to prime it with new organic matter and nitrogen for growing vegetables, herbs, berry bushes and fruit trees come next spring?

Crimson clover, hairy vetch? Rye? A combination of any or all of these? I don’t mind resowing as the seasons change from warm to cold. I’ll be cutting it down with a scythe and turning it under with a fork, but we’re only talking 0.4 or so acres.

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  1. I went ahead and bought a pound of buckwheat seed from Seeds of Change and 3 packets of Compost Crop Mix from Bountiful Gardens for the front and 2 pounds of Northern Ecology Lawn Mix from Nichols Garden Nursery for the back, near the patio. Nice mix, huh! I figured, since I plan to order from these companies, I might as well found out what their customer service and speed of shipping, etc. are like.

    We have special interest in that “lawn” mix: it has Colonial Bentgrass, Strawberry and Dutch White Clover, Wild English Daisies, Roman Chamomile, Yarrow and Baby Blue Eyes! Looks fantastic on the picture.

  2. Aaargh. I just discovered that the leach field, which is the main area that is disturbed and needs to be covered up, is only 18″ deep. Most cover crops, like buckwheat, have deep taproot (minimum of 3 feet deep), which could entangle or clog the drainage pipes of the leach field…

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