I'm thinking about some fall-planted clover or vetch for a cover crop. I was
pleased with the result when I cover cropped years ago, but we had a bigger
plot then, with a rototiller and a winter-buckwheat that grew near shoulder
high. We don't have the space or the rototiller any more. I'm wondering if
I'd be in over my head if I planned to hand spade and hoe about 500 square
feet of legumes. Is there anyone out there doing cover crops with just hand
tools? How difficult is the spring work?
I found that rye was pretty tough stuff. The legumes are pretty easy,
especially if you don't obsess about tilling the stuff in. Use a hoe to
chop the stuff off at the ground surface, and leave the roots (nearly) intact.
If necessary, go through later on an as-needed basis with a fork to loosen
things up for the new planting(s). Yes, I'm trying to get to "no-till".
There is work involved -- I don't try to do all of my ~ 1000 ft^2 in one
day -- but it is doable. Of course the more green you have, the more mass
you'll have to move around (dump into the compost pile).
Do a bit of it at a time and it shouldn't be bad. You don't need to clear
it all in a day, do you?
Thanks, Frank! No, I usually go out in the spring with a spade and turn
over a quarter of the garden one day, and a quarter the next, so it's not a
big job. I'm not going no-till (at least not yet) but I'm no human
rototiller, either! Somehow I was imagining a cover crop like wresting a new
garden from sod, where if you just spade it over the grass just reverses
course and comes up as thickly as ever. As long as a legume cover crop won't
come up from the roots again like a new crop of weeds, I'm all set.
It sounds like your plot isn't too large so you may be a good candidate for
an old fashioned scythe. They can often be found rather cheaply and if you
are good at sharpening blades they work well.
While I don't use it much now, I still have my grandfathers scythe that I
learned on about forty-five years ago.
If anyone goes this route it helps a lot to have some instruction on proper
form. Don't use just your arms, use your whole body.
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